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Ducey signs care facility safety law related to Hacienda rape case

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – Legislation designed to increase protection for vulnerable people in group homes was signed into law Tuesday by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

House Bill 2117 regulates how facilities caring for people with developmental disabilities can use electronic devices, including video cameras, to monitor common areas.

Safety at such facilities became a hot topic after an incapacitated woman at a Hacienda HealthCare center in Phoenix gave birth in late December after being raped.

Nathan Sutherland, a former nurse at the facility who had been one of the woman’s caregivers, was arrested in January and charged with sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult after authorities said his DNA matched that of the baby. He pleaded not guilty in February.

Under the new law, which passed both houses without opposition, service providers of group homes and intermediate care facilities with monitoring devices must establish policies on their use and submit them to Department of Economic Security.

The policies must include public disclosure about the devices and rules about how video is maintained and retained, who may access the video, how confidentiality and privacy will be protected and how often the video will be monitored or reviewed.

Rep. Nancy Barto, who sponsored the bill, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the Hacienda HealthCare case showed why this kind of legislation was necessary.

“I was working on this issue last year, in fact, before everything broke in terms of the news about Hacienda and the horrible things that were going on there,” she said after the bill was signed.

Barto said she’d learned that cameras were at times being installed at the request of families, but there was no legal guidance on how to do so.

“Since there were no real rules, there was no real accountability for how it’s done,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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