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Delaware Senate Democrats

Sen. Mantzavinos files two bills to protect older Delawareans from abuse

May 11, 2023

DOVER – Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos today filed two bipartisan bills that will better protect vulnerable and older Delawareans receiving care at various facilities in the First State from becoming the victims of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

“When families make a difficult decision about the care of their parents or grandparents, they are placing an immense amount of trust in the caregivers, staff and management at long-term, transitional and other care facilities,” said Sen. Mantzavinos, co-chair of the Long-Term Care and Memory Care Task Force.

“We owe it to those families and their loved ones to do everything we can to ensure that their trust is upheld,” said Mantzavinos, D-Stanton. “The bills I am putting forward today will give prosecutors the tools they need to hold facilities accountable when that trust is violated by people with the audacity to prey on the very seniors they are supposed to protect.”

Senate Bill 123 would close a loophole in the Delaware patient abuse protection statute that currently covers nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but fails to extend those same protections to patients of adult day care facilities, which typically provide social activities, meals, recreation and health-related care during limited hours of service.

“Having operated adult daycare facilities, I was shocked to learn about the significant loopholes in our patient abuse statutes,” said Rep. Kendra Johnson, the House co-prime sponsor of SB 123 and SB 127. “By addressing these gaps in our code, we’re fostering a safer environment for program participants, their families, and caregivers while holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”

Senate Bill 127 would enhance criminal liability for board members and managers of facilities that fail to adequately protect patients. High-ranking facility officials could face criminal penalties proportional with the degree of harm caused to the patient, unless they promptly stop abuse when they become aware of it, prevent others from being abused, mistreated or neglected in a similar manner, and ensure that the abuse does not reoccur.

SB 127 also enhances criminal liability when board members and managers fail to promptly take corrective action after becoming aware that a patient has been the victim of medication diversion or financial exploitation.

Under SB 127, a board member or manager who fails to take corrective action after becoming aware of illegal conduct against a patient could face misdemeanor or felony charges, possibly resulting in a prison sentence, depending on the severity of the harm to the patient. For instance, a manager who was aware of abuse or neglect that resulted in the death of patient and failed to take corrective action could be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by 2 to 25 years in prison.

“As the aging population continues to grow in our state, we need to ensure the safety of those that will be utilizing the services of long-term care facilities,” said Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, a co-prime sponsor of SB 123 and SB 127. “Families must be able to trust those who are providing care to their loved ones and we, as a legislative body, have a responsibility to give prosecutors the tools they need to weed out those who breach that trust.”

“I think this is likely one of the most important issues that we, as a General Assembly, can address,” said Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, who is also a co-prime sponsor of both bills. “With an aging population that continues to grow in Delaware, it is critical that we take all the steps necessary to protect one of our most vulnerable sectors. As a member of a task force that examines public policy centered on long-term care, safety for patients is paramount. I am proud to serve as a co-prime sponsor of these bills in the House.”

SB 123 and SB 127 have been assigned to the Senate Health and Social Services Committee.