Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bill to allow sex offenders to be admitted into residential facilities

I will have to look over HB 621 and see if there are any potential issues.

http://www.norwalkreflector.com/article/4967546

Bill to allow sex offenders to be admitted into residential facilities
Ohio General Assembly is on recess until the week after November’s general election.
MCT REGIONAL NEWS
SEP 26, 2014

A state representative from Summit County has introduced a bill that would allow sex offenders to be admitted into residential facilities designed for those with developmental disabilities, clearing up what the law maker calls a “black hole.”

State and county developmental disability agencies aren’t yet familiar enough with this bill to know how it could affect how business is done at residential facilities.

Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, submitted House Bill 621 to the Ohio House, on Sept. 16, which is in response to an issue that happened at a residential facility in Tallmadge, Ohio. Residents in the Akron suburb were upset last year when sex offenders living were at a developmental disabilities residential facility, and “that didn’t set well in the communities because they were sex offenders,” he said.

That particular issue was resolved, but prompted a need for state protocols to be established. After DeVitis said he didn’t receive or hear from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities any protocols, he said he introduced the bill last week.

According to the legislation, the bill would allow:

• the search for the individual’s name in the internet-based sex offender and child-victim offender database. If the search identifies that person as a sex offender, then all pertinent law enforcement agencies and relevant community leaders would be notified;

• a residential facility to develop a protocol to establish and implement a resident supervision plan, medical emergency plan and community engagement plan;

• a residential facility to establish and implement the developed protocol plans and submit those plants to the relevant local law enforcement agencies and community leaders; and

• a residential facility shall redact all medical information about individuals from the copies of the protocol plans.

The bill has yet to receive any discussion in the General Assembly, which is on recess until the week after November’s general election, and has yet to be assigned to a subcommittee.

“It’s not exactly what the community would like to have happen, but there were certain civil liberties we couldn’t violate,” he said.

DeVitis said he has not yet received a lot of feedback concerning the bill, but said this fills in a “black hole” in the system.

HB 621 comes a year after the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities convened a work group comprised of several experts from around the state. The goal, according to a letter dated on Sept. 11 from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, was “to develop supervision protocols for individuals with developmental disabilities who have been convicted of a sex crime to better serve these individuals and the communities where they lived.”

DeVitis said he was not aware this work group was formed and met.

The 2013 work group developed four recommendations, which included: developing a protocol for assessments, guide to help determine appropriate supervision levels, tool to examine the effect of environmental factors on an individual’s treatment and progress, and plan for relapse prevention.

Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Lisa Guliano said the board has no official position on the bill at this time since it was just introduced and agency hasn’t vetted the merits and disadvantages of the bill.

“Our practice is to plan supports around people in order to safeguard them, the people they live with, and the community they live in,” said Guliano. “People who have sexually offending behaviors live throughout our community whether they have a disability or not. There are rules and laws in place for sex offenders that individuals with developmental disabilities are already subject to.”

Megan Manuel, Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities superintendent, said her agency is holding a similar position.

“I was aware of (the bill), but I wasn’t contacted before it was introduced,” she said. “Our board has not discussed it or taken a position on it at this time.”

Officials with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities don’t yet have a position on House Bill 621.

“We’re reviewing the legislation and we will watch it as it moves forward,” said Kerry Francis, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, though she said officials were aware DeVitis was working on the legislation.

When the Ohio House and Senate reconvenes to its lame duck session, DeVitis said he isn’t certain what kind of traction the bill will receive.

He said the protocols being called for by the bill could be handled without legislation and simply by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities creating new policies and protocols. But if the bill does not pass both chambers of the General Assembly before the end of the 130th General Assembly in mid-December, he will reintroduce the bill provided he’s elected in November.

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