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Ducey signs bill to protect vulnerable adults

FILE - This Jan. 25, 2019 file photo shows the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix.  A month after an incapacitated woman gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility, a panel is calling on Arizona lawmakers and agencies to make policy changes to protect vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

FILE – This Jan. 25, 2019 file photo shows the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix. A month after an incapacitated woman gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility, a panel is calling on Arizona lawmakers and agencies to make policy changes to protect vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed the first bill meant to better protect vulnerable adults like the woman who was victimized in a center charged with her care last year.

Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, introduced Senate Bill 1211 to close a loophole in state law that allowed centers like Hacienda HealthCare to operate without a state license since the 1990s. Her bill also strengthened background check requirements for intermediate care centers serving people with intellectual disabilities.

Ducey had long indicated his support for the bill and signed it without comment yesterday.

An incapacitated woman was raped at Hacienda, a fact the facility staff were apparently unaware of until she gave birth in December. Her abuse shocked the state and the nation, leading to public conversations about how best to protect others like her who are made victims by the people entrusted with their care.

Former Hacienda nurse Nathan Sutherland was the alleged perpetrator and is awaiting trial.

Carter’s bill was never intended to be a catchall solution – several bills aiming to improve everything from monitoring in group homes and other facilities to how complaints about potential abuse are received are still making their way through the legislative process. Advocates and members of the disabilities community have also offered their own proposals to do more.

Their message has been: While horrific, the Hacienda case does not stand alone.

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