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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Withhold Certification of Some Homemaker-Home Health Aides Clears Assembly Committee

“Maria’s Law” Would Delay Approval Pending Investigation of Complaints, Abuse Allegations

To help prevent questionable, potentially abusive homemaker-home health aides from becoming certified, a bill to defer consideration or withhold their certification due to patient complaints or allegations of abuse cleared the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee Thursday. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri sponsored the measure.

The bill (A-1728), known as “Maria’s Law,” stems from homemaker-home health aide patient Maria Bologna who was assaulted by her aide, Gloria Pagonzaga, in 2015. The late woman’s assault was captured by a hidden video camera installed on loan by the Division of Consumer Affairs. The agency took the action in response to a pattern of homemaker-home health aide thefts in Bologna’s home. Although Pagonzaga was charged with simple assault, she still applied for and received a homemaker-home health aide license despite the pending charges. She was later convicted.

“This bill can help bring justice to those who are suffering from elder abuse,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By ensuring that home health aide licenses be put on hold if there are pending criminal charges, we can help protect our elderly population and ensure not only their safety, but their dignity as well.”

The bill would require the New Jersey Board of Nursing to defer consideration or withhold conditional certification of a homemaker-home health aide due to:

(1) A charge or complaint filed by a law enforcement agency that alleges abuse, neglect, or violence inflicted by the person on a patient; or

(2) Credible evidence supporting an allegation of abuse, neglect, or violence inflicted by the person on a patient.

The deferral of consideration or withholding of approval would remain effective pending the final outcome of an inquiry or investigation by the board, or pending the final outcome of civil or criminal proceedings resulting from a court action. The deferral of consideration or withholding of approval could not exceed 120 days unless the charge or complaint remained pending or was extended for good cause. If the investigation or court proceedings were completed without a conviction or judgment of wrongdoing, the applicant could move forward with pursing certification.

Current state statute requires criminal background checks for all certified homemaker- home health aides and may disqualify them, or an applicant for certification, if the individual has been convicted of certain crimes and offenses.

If enacted, the bill, which was introduced in January 2018, would immediately take effect. It now awaits further consideration from the Assembly.