After nurse's killing, Connecticut lawmakers propose new safety laws

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats announced that protecting home care workers is their top priority bill for 2024.

John Craven

Feb 21, 2024, 5:12 PM

Updated 57 days ago

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Four months ago, Joyce Grayson showed up at a halfway house in Willimantic for a house call. She did not make it out alive.
In response to her killing, Connecticut lawmakers announced a new push to protect home health care workers on Wednesday.
GRAYSON KILLING
Grayson's death stunned the entire state – and shined a spotlight on just how dangerous home nursing visits can be.
"I've had patients throw dressing supplies at me or get angry because it was taking too long to do wound care, or angry because I didn't want to sit on their floor," said state Sen. Martha Marx (D-New London), a longtime visiting nurse.
Police found Grayson's body in the basement of a halfway house on Oct. 28. Willimantic police Chief Roberto Rosado called it "one of the worst cases" he had ever seen.
Grayson's patient, convicted sex offender Michael Reese, is the prime suspect in her death, according to court documents. So far, Reese is being held on larceny and drug charges as Connecticut State Police continue to investigate the killing.
"The family is eagerly waiting for charges to be brought," Grayson family attorney Kelly Reardon told NBC Connecticut on Dec. 8. "The family's goal at this point is to ensure that something changes."
LAWMAKERS PUSHING FOR PROTECTIONS
Now, state lawmakers are taking action. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats announced that protecting home care workers is their top priority bill for 2024.
"We want to make sure that the patient who's getting the care is safe, but also the provider who's providing the care is safe," said state Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), who is also a physician.
Senate Bill 1 would require "risk assessments" for home care patients. Workers could also request an escort to come with them. Health agencies would also have to provide workers an "emergency button" or a safety app.
Marx said home care-specific training is also essential.
"You can get kicked and hit by patients with dementia," she said. "But if you have proper training, there's also ways that you can also prevent that."
According to Senate Democrats, SB1 will do the following:
  • Providing workers with a risk assessment for patients with potential histories of violence or criminal histories, including instances where a patient's history may require the assistance of an escort for the worker's safety, in an effort to prioritize transparency in communication.
  • Such a report would also involve information on people present or anticipated to be present in a home, including family members, other residents of a household or animals, as several examples, and the location of a home, including information about violent or criminal activity in the area.
  • Workers would receive comprehensive training regarding their own safety, including training on how to handle a patient in a dangerous situation, such as if a patient exhibits agitated or angry behavior that could escalate. It would also allow for training on how to seek help quickly, safely and effectively in the event of an event's escalation.
  • Health care workers will receive regularly scheduled health and wellness checks where they can report information to employers and agencies.
  • Agencies will provide workers with an adequate mechanism for safety checks and implement technology integrations, which can include mobile applications, emergency buttons or other devices.
  • Workers will also be able to utilize applications that will provide data including patient appointments, care needs and schedules of patients, among other needs. That application could provide an emergency button feature to support such care.
  • For payment support, Medicare would cover escorts if requested or needed by a worker.
  • A task force would be created to give recommendations on coordinating these needs.
SPIKE IN VIOLENCE
Garyson's killing comes amid an alarming jump in violence against health care workers. And it's not just home care nurses.
In October, the Connecticut Hospital Association launched a statewide "Patient and Family Code of Conduct." It specifically prohibits violent behavior, as well as abusive and discriminatory language.
According to CHA, five workers are assaulted each day, and one in four nurses is injured.
"I had urine thrown at me from a urinal because I was taking care of a critical patient in another room," said UConn Health nurse Teresa Marks. "I've had co-workers who have been hit in the head. I've had co-workers that have had to have stitches because they've been punched in the face."
The surge has forced hospitals to increase security and de-escalation training.
"A calm voice, letting the person know you're going to address their issues," Stamford Health CEO Kathy Silard told News 12 Connecticut. "Maybe removing them from the stressful environment."
No one really knows how widespread the problem is, because home care agencies don't have to report assaults. That would also change under the legislation.


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