Assembly Panel Advances Spencer Bill Inspired by Death at Orange Senior Housing Facility

Bill Would Require Plan for Notification of Next-of-Kin

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer to clearly delineate the responsibility for notifying the next of kin when a resident of a senior housing facility passes away was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill was inspired by the May death of a woman who lived in an Orange senior citizens facility whose family was not notified for nearly a week after her passing. According to news reports, legal responsibility for notifying the next-of-kin is unclear, which led to a breakdown in communication between the housing facility, local police and the medical examiner.

Ultimately the woman’s family found out the shocking truth on their own after their mother’s body lay in a morgue for six days.

“Something like this should never happen, not in this day and age with all the methods of communication that are available,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “My heart breaks for this family now knowing their mother’s body lay alone and unclaimed for almost a week. There’s a simple fix to this problem to make sure other families don’t have to endure the same thing and that is clearly delineating the responsibility for notifying the next-of-kin under law. This bill will achieve just that.”

Specifically, the bill (A-3630) would require the management of any type of senior citizen housing or senior citizen facility to adopt guidelines for the notification of next-of-kin upon a resident’s death.

Under the provisions of Spencer’s bill, any entity that is responsible for the management of any type of housing or facility that is restricted to senior citizens is required to adopt these guidelines.

Under the bill, “senior citizen” is defined as a person 55 years of age or older.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee and would go into effect on the first day of the seventh month after enactment.