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Lawmaker working on bill to allow visitors at long-term care facilities

The legislation would allow facilities to decide if it should allow visitors

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on some families and a soon-to-be bill would allow family members to visit their loved ones who live in long term care facilities. 

"it would take that piece of glass away," said State Sen. Bob Mensch, who plans to introduce the legislation in the coming days. His legislation would give long term care facilities the power to decide if visitors should be allowed. 

"It would begin to provide families some greater relief about their loved one," said Sen. Mensch. "And as the individual in the facility it would give them some relief." 

It's been nearly five months since the Wolf Administration ordered no visitors at long term care facilities. State Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County is joining Sen. Mensch on this legislation. 

"Obviously six months into this crisis and when Sec. Levine announced exclusion order this has kept loved ones from being able to access their fathers, mothers, brothers, aunt and uncles for almost six months," said Sen. Mastriano. "And this is catastrophic."

The isolation people in these facilities are facing can be harmful, according to LeadingAge PA, which is working with Sen. Mensch on this legislation. 

"We do see isolation leads to dementia, maybe becoming worse than previously," said Anne Henry with LeadingAge PA. "It can lead to depression that might not have been in place previously. so it's really important to get family members back together." 

FOX43 reached out to the Governor's Office and Department of Health for a statement in response to this legislation. They issued a joint statement: 

"We see no need for legislation based on the visitation plans facilities already have in place suited to their specific situations and not a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Each nursing home has received visitation guidance from the departments of Health and Human Services that highlights flexibility tailored to the situation and needs of each facility. Through this gradual reopening guidance in long-term care facilities, all facilities can have visitors, after fulfilling the prerequisites and necessary precautions to keep their residents safe. We encourage facilities to make visitation available depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the facility and the time since the last new case was reported. 

In person, outdoor, and indoor options are all available under the guidance. As well, we encourage facilities to use video chatting. Each facility should have a visitation plan posted on their website or available to families upon request."