A new law will soon take effect requiring nursing home employees to notify police within hours of suspected abuse – or to call 911 if the situation is an emergency. “Peggy’s Law” will provide additional protections to nursing home residents by ensuring that law enforcement is promptly notified of possible criminal abuse cases.

Peggy’s Law was named for 93-year-old Peggy Marzolla, who died following injuries suffered while in the care of a nursing home in 2010. When Peggy Marzolla was taken to the hospital, it was found that she had sustained a broken eye socket, cheekbone, jaw, and wrist, as well as a badly bruised elbow, a gash on her leg, and welts on her back.

Staff members at the nursing home stated that she had slipped on some powder in a bathroom and fallen. Her daughter did not believe the explanation and spent the next several years lobbying lawmakers to better protect institutionalized seniors.

Governor Chris Christie signed Peggy’s Law on August 7, 2017 and it will go into effect 60 days later.

Peggy’s Law requires employees of over 900 state-regulated facilities to promptly contact police if they suspect abuse, exploitation, or other criminal harm involving an elderly resident. Contacting law enforcement will be mandatory once the law takes effect. Both the employee and the facility will be held responsible if the call to police isn’t made within a certain timeframe. Facilities can be fined $500 for a violation, and individual employees can be charged $2,500 for failing to report an incident. The law will apply to caretakers, social workers, physicians, nurses, and other staff members.

Under the current law, employees must report suspected abuse, neglect, and unexplained injuries to the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, which investigates allegations of improper care, injuries, abuse, and financial exploitation.

Peggy’s Law requires employees to contact police if they suspect a crime within 24 hours — or within two hours if an injury is involved. It also requires facilities to educate staff on the new mandate. The ombudsman’s office must include the new mandate in its outreach and materials. In addition, Peggy’s Law requires the ombudsman’s office to create a 24-hour hotline for complaints.