Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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June 26. 1995


I am transmit line to the Secretary of State, with my signature, 95-H-6454, "An ACT Relating to State Affairs and Government Department of Elderly Affairs."

This legislation codifies an existing Department of Elderly Affairs practice of appointing an Ombudsperson to advocate on behalf of long term care facility residents. The Ombudsperson will oversee a comprehensive program to improve the quality of life for facility residents. As part of this program, the legislation authorizes the Ombudsperson to identify, investigate and resolve complaints which affect the health, safety and welfare of facility residents while at the same time protecting their privacy and confidentiality.

I support the goals of this legislation but write to insure that the confidentiality of the Ombudsperson's complaint files, and the privacy of the residents who initiate those complaints, are adequately protected by this legislation. The first sentence of §42-66.7-6 prohibits the disclosure of files kept by the Ombudsperson without the written consent of the affected patient or a court order. The next sentence might be read to eviscerate that protection by allowing disclosure, without resident consent, to any "interested party" when "necessary to resolve the complaint." The legislation authorizes the Department of Elderly Affairs to issue enabling regulations. One such regulation should clarify that the second sentence not be read to result in disclosures which violate the very privacy this legislation is designed to safeguard.

With this message, I sign this bill into law.


Lincoln Almond