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


We’ve all read the stories in the paper of the countless individuals suffering from the ongoing opioid epidemic. There has been a lot of talk of families being ripped apart by this tragedy, too often we hear talk but see little action.

Legislator Ted Morton joined Senator Patrick M. Gallivan, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, Holland Central School Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos and Alden School Superintendent Adam Stoltman to announce continued funding for school resource officers (SRO) in several local districts. The SRO program provides a uniformed officer in schools as a way to promote student safety, conflict resolution and anti-bullying initiatives.

At a Legislative session held on September 21, 2017, Legislator Ted Morton honored Lancaster resident, Dick Young as the September 2017 Citizen of the month.

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.

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