|Lawanna Burks - Next of Kin|
Violators will pay a $500 fine if the call is not made within 24 hours, according to the law that took effect Monday.
A Star-Ledger report about the death of Sheila Tolor, 65, of Washington Manor in Orange in 2014 inspired the legislation. She died at home and her body was taken to the morgue, where it remained for six days.
Her daughter, Lawanna Burks, only learned of her mother's death when she dropped by for a visit. The Orange senior citizen housing authority never called the family, and told the newspaper that it expected the police would notify the next of kin.
"When a resident of a senior facility passes on, there should be procedures in place to ensure that the individual's loved ones are notified in a timely manner," said Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), one of the bill's sponsors. "This is a heart-breaking situation for a family. This law is aimed at making sure those kinds of tragic lapses in process do not occur and that the emergency contact designated by the individual is notified."
The legislation (S1131) applies to the administrator of any senior housing complex -- whether it is a rooming house, boarding house, residential health care facility, assisted living facility, nursing home, continuing care retirement community, or public housing complex. The administrator must collect emergency contact information for every tenant, and call the family within 24 hours in the event of the tenant's death.
Burks could not be reached for comment.
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Christie signs next of kin notification law to prevent family heartache