Missouri law already requires long-term care facilites to report cases of suspected abuse and neglect of a resident to the state Health and Senior Services department.
"But what's not in there is that that medical provider is not required to notify law enforcement" in the case of a sexual assault, state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said Tuesday, after introducing a bill to change the law. "It's a simple change, but it's a meaningful change."
The notification would be made under the requirements of a 2009 federal law.
Kehoe said adding law enforcement would add more trained investigators into the process of trying to determine what happened "with the tools they have available to them and, potentially, find out who at that facility may have been involved or how that happened."
Obviously, if law officers had enough evidence of a crime, they could seek charges from the prosecuting attorney.
Kehoe said the need to add reporting of sexual assaults to the existing state law came from "a constituent who, unfortunately, had this happen to them right here in our district."
Although he talked in terms of an investigation following a patient's death, the current law actually covers any case where someone "has a reasonable cause to believe that a resident of a facility has been abused or neglected."
Kehoe said that adding a requirement that law enforcement be notified in case of a suspected sexual assault can "give the family some closure. Right now, the family finds that out, but they don't get any closure with it."
Although there's been a lot of talk this year about sexual assaults on college campuses, Kehoe said his bill only deals "with senior adults who are in extended stay or nursing facilities."
He introduced the same bill last year, at the end of February - but that was too late for it to be considered by a committee or debated by the full Senate.
"So, we just wanted to get it started earlier (this year)," he told the News Tribune. "There was not a lot of opposition to this, at all - (at least) that was made known to us last year.
"We think it's one of those common-sense things that we can have an effect on, so we wanted to put it forward earlier this year."