Caregiver accreditation bill released

TRENTON – A bill that would require companion caregivers of senior citizens and disabled residents to be accredited by the state cleared a Senate committee Monday.

The bill, S2100, would require that health care service firms, as a condition of licensure, obtain accreditation from an accrediting body that is recognized by the Department of Human Services, according to the bill.

It cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee following a unanimous vote with one abstention from Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, (R-8).

The proposal aims to ensure companion caregivers “rise to a higher standard,” said bill sponsor Sen. Nellie Pou, (D-35).

“Right now, every single health care service firm is required to be accredited with the exception of companion care,” Pou said.

The New Jersey Association of Health Plans and the Home Care Council of New Jersey supports the proposal, arguing the accreditation step is necessary in ensuring the safety of residents receiving companion care.

Other stakeholders who said they opposed the bill’s intent urged lawmakers to vote against the proposal because it fell “short of the mark,” said Jean Bestafka, CEO of Home Health Services and Staffing Association.

Several lawmakers who voted in favor of releasing the bill stated they wanted to see language reworked before hitting the Senate floor for a full vote.

“One of the reasons why I’m supporting this bill at this moment is we need criminal background checks,” said Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7).

“I know Senator Pou will stay on this,” she said. “And for that reason I’m going to vote yes now.”

Medical marijuana

The committee also released legislation that would prohibit medical marijuana patients in the state from being disqualified from organ transplant lists because of their medical marijuana use.

The bill, S1220, requires a registered qualifying patient’s authorized use of medical marijuana to be considered equivalent to use of any other prescribed medication, according to the bill.

The bill cleared the committee with bipartisan support, but fell short of receiving unanimous support.

“I understand the intent, but there’s no reason for it,” said Sen. Robert Singer, (R-30), who said the proposal, which was sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Joe Vitale, (D-19), stemmed from a newspaper article from California.

“We’re spending time and money on a piece of legislation that is unneeded,” he said.

Vitale told his colleague the legislation was not based on a newspaper article from California and argued its intention is to prevent any issues with people on organ transplant lists.

The committee also voted to release the following bills:

A2614/S1175, provides for voluntary contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

A3760/S2597, requires that certain HIV testing be performed within 48 hours of request by victim.

ACR138/SCR98, designates March 2013 as “Professional Social Work Month” in New Jersey.

AJR72/SJR65, designates October of each year as “National Dwarfism Awareness Month.”

Caregiver accreditation bill released