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Cutrona explains vote against caregiver’s act

Only one of two House members to vote against the Compassionate Caregiver’s Act, state Rep. Al Cutrona said he did so because the bill doesn’t change anything.

“Even proponents of the bill said it doesn’t change current law,” said Cutrona, R-Canfield. “I’m not against it, but their own witnesses said it wouldn’t change anything. It has no enforcement. It would just codify what exists.”

The bill provides criteria for compassionate care visits during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to allow family members access to their loved one in long-term care facilities. The circumstances include situations in which residents demonstrate behavioral changes due to emotional distress from isolation and end of life circumstances.

Those visits are currently permitted under Ohio Department of Health policies.

It also requires facilities to communicate the right of residents and families to seek assistance in gaining access to a facility through the state’s long-term care ombudsman program.

The bill requires long-term care facilities to develop and implement a visitation policy regarding compassionate care visits.

The bill was approved 89-2 by the House. The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

Only Cutrona and Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, voted against it. They were also the only two members of the House Family, Aging and Human Services Committee to vote against moving it to the House floor for consideration. Cutrona is vice chairman of the committee.

“It’s a feel-good bill that doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “It doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism. It just codifies what exists. I’m not going to vote yes for a bill just to vote yes.”

Cutrona said he and Howse are working on a bill that includes a way to enforce the Compassionate Caregiver’s Act and will introduce it in the near future.

“I want it to last longer than the (current) state of emergency,” Cutrona said.

State Rep. Tracy Richardson, R-Marysville, who sponsored the bill, said she introduced it after hearing concerns from constituents in long-term care facilities and their family members about depression, weight loss, loss of will to live and other issues.

“The toll, challenges and difficulties brought on by COVID-19 have been painful for so many Ohioans,” she said.

The bill “supports the emotional health of our seniors and families,” Richardson added.

VACCINE PASSPORTS

Meanwhile, Cutrona said he’s received “overwhelming support” from people for a proposal to prohibit vaccine passports in Ohio. The bill will be introduced in the next week or so, he said.

The passports would allow people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to travel or go to certain places.

While there is no movement in the state to require the passports, Cutrona said: “The goal of this bill is to prevent the government from moving in that direction. We’re looking to be proactive. We want to get ahead of this so no government entity or bureau or any health orders can require that.”

Cutrona said the state has placed “restrictions on our freedoms for over a year and more restrictions or mandates are not the answer to every issues related to COVID-19.”

New York is developing a vaccine passport for its residents while the federal government doesn’t plan to create a national one.

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