OKLAHOMA CITY - State Rep. Kris Steele will testify before a congressional committee this month to tout a new Oklahoma law that may become a national model.
Steele, a Republican from Shawnee, will appear before the U.S. House of Representatives' Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight to discuss an Oklahoma law he authored that creates separate nursing home facilities for convicted sex offenders in need of long-term care.
“Protecting our senior adults is a primary responsibility of government,” Steele said. “I'm proud we enacted safeguards to protect Oklahoma's most vulnerable citizens and am excited that our legislation may now become a blueprint for other states and the federal government.”
House Bill 2704, by Steele, directed the Department of Health to request bids for the operation of a stand-alone, long-term care facility that will house only elderly registered sex offenders.
Steele will be one of only five people testifying at the hearing, which Steel said was launched in response to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin.
Congressional lawmakers will use the hearing to determine if the housing of elderly sex offenders has become a nationwide problem and evaluate the need for reform at the federal level.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates 2,250 inmates convicted of sex crimes will be released from prison in the next 10 years.
An estimated 26 percent of the inmates set for release will be over the age of 50 and potentially in need of long-term care. In addition, recent data indicates the number of registered sexual offenders in Oklahoma is increasing.
Currently, federal law requires the state of Oklahoma to pay for long-term care services for individuals who are Medicaid eligible- even if they are convicted felons.
Under Steele's House Bill 2704, any facility bidding to house sex offenders would have to meet surveillance and security requirements necessary to protect the public.
House Bill 2704 also requires the Department of Health to develop a payment methodology to offset those costs. Any provider interested in managing a stand-alone facility for offenders would netthe same reimbursement rate currently provided to care for other persons in need of long-term care.
House Bill 2704 passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate before being signed by the governor.
“I believe House Bill 2704 is a common-sense, fiscally responsible way to reduce the risk to our parents and grandparents residing in nursing homes and I hope this hearing will encourage others to implement similar protections,” Steele said.