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New Sex Offender Notification Law for Ohio Residential Care Facilities

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By Taylor Knight

July 28, 2014

For many years, Ohio law has required notification to be sent to anyone living within 1,000 feet of a sex offender.  However, due to an unintended quirk in the law, administrators at residential care facilities were not required to notify residents, family members or guardians when a sex offender became a resident of their facility.

After several failed attempts to change sex offender notification laws applicable to residential care facilities, on June 16, 2014, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 483, which adds Section 3721.122 to the Ohio Revised Code.  Under R.C. 3721.122, before an individual is admitted as a resident to a home, the home’s administrator is required to search for the individual's name in the Ohio internet-based sex offender and child-victim offender database.  If the search results identify the individual as a sex offender and the individual is admitted as a resident to the home, the home administrator is required to:

(1) develop a plan of care to protect other residents’ rights to a safe environment and to be free from abuse;

(2) notify all of the home’s other residents and their sponsors that a sex offender has been admitted as a resident to the home and include in the notice a description of the plan of care developed to protect other residents; and

(3) direct the individual in updating the individual’s address in Ohio’s internet-based sex offender and child-victim offender database and, if the individual is unable to do so without assistance, provide the assistance the individual needs.

Despite the fact that the bill was singed in June 2014, it does not become effective until September 15, 2014, giving long-term care facilities several months to create policies and procedure to implement the law.  Further, much like many Ohio laws, R.C. 3721.122 is prospective in application and the search requirements only apply to residents that are admitted on or after September 15, 2014.

While many proponents of the new requirements believe R.C. 3721.122 simply corrects an omission in Ohio’s general sex offender notification laws, many fear R.C.  3721.122 will have its own set of unintended consequences that will prove challenging for many residential facilities.  Specifically, residential facilities will now be forced to engage in the difficult balancing act of providing care for an individual who has been labeled a sex offender and can no longer care for themselves and protecting other residents in their care that may be more susceptible to fall victim to such individuals.  Additionally, some believe R.C. 3721.122’s notification requirements will create an unnecessary fear among other residents and their families - much like a modern-day “scarlet letter” - and will likely result in a mass exodus of residents from the facility once notification has been made. 

Unfortunately, as the law has not yet become effective, it is unclear whether any of these concerns will come to fruition or whether providing information relative to the individual’s plan of care, as required by R.C. 3721.122(B), will result in a violation of the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act.

If you have any questions regarding R.C. 3721.122 and its potential impact on long term care facilities, or matters affecting long term care facilities in Ohio, Indiana, or Kentucky generally, please contact one of our Long Term Care Practice Group Members.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel. 

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