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May 2017 Column - Ruthie’s Law improves accountability in nursing homes


Today, in response to the County Executive’s offer to work with Legislator Morton to develop a compromise Made in America Act, Legislator Ted Morton wrote to him to begin the process.

Legislator Ted Morton first introduced the Made in America Act in support of local manufacturers and local workers in Erie County. After passing the Legislature by a vote of 9-1, the County Executive vetoed the law after instructing the County Attorney to draft a legal opinion.

As many regular readers of my monthly column are probably aware, for the past three years I have been a major advocate of dredging Como Lake. Many residents recall years ago ice skating or boating on the lake, some even remember swimming in the lake, if you can believe that.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton today urged Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to sign the Made in America Act into law following the County Executive’s public hearing on the matter, which was held on September 7th.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton commended County Executive Mark Poloncarz and members of the Shared Services Panel for including his recommendation to dredge Como Lake in the County’s Finalized Shared Services Plan that will be submitted to the State of New York.

This month I wanted to talk about a new law I sponsored that will offer additional protections to our seniors residing in nursing homes and will improve access to information that is vital to families that are choosing a nursing home. Ruthie’s Law aims to respond to recent incidents of neglect occurring at nursing homes throughout our community by becoming more proactive and providing more transparency regarding incidents and their causes.  

Ruthie’s Law is named after the tragic case of Ruth Murray, who unsupervised, accidently walked into a room in the dementia unit and was attacked by another resident. Suffering from severe injuries, Ms. Murray passed away three days later. A state investigation found that the nursing home she resided in was not ensuring proper resident supervision and failed to notify the authorities or Ms. Murray’s family in a timely manner. This was a tragic event that we need to do everything we can to prevent from happening again. 

Ruthie’s Law aims to address this issue through requiring nursing homes to notify a designated family member no more than two hours after a resident suffers an injury that requires medical treatment. Notification must include all information known at the time it took place and what the nursing home has done in response to the incident. Nursing homes will also be required to provide reports detailing the number of reportable events and provide potential patients and their designated representatives with copies of the facilities most recent Nursing Home Performance Quality Measure data.

Nursing homes in violation of the law’s provisions can face a penalty of up to $1,000 with multiple events in a calendar year, resulting in a fine of up to $2,000. In addition, the Erie County Attorney will have that authority to bring legal action in order to obtain any civil penalty assigned as a result of a violation. 

Our seniors living in nursing homes are some of the most vulnerable among us. We want, and need to be able to trust the facilities caring for our senior citizens. Most of our nursing homes do tremendous work to care for our family members, but we need to hold those accountable that do not. This law seeks to bring transparency to nursing homes in order to help prevent tragedies, like Ms. Ruth Murray’s case, from happening again. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Legislature and the County Executive to make sure this law gets passed.  

On a different note, many people have reached out to my office regarding when the 2017 county hazardous waste collection days will be. The next one will be held on Saturday, June 3rd from 9am-2pm at ECC South at the entrance on Big Tree Road/Route 20A. There will also be one held at ECC North off Wehrle Drive on Saturday, August 5th from 9am-2pm. As always should you have any questions on this or any other issue, please give me a call at 858-8856 or send an email to