California law to regulate homeless patient discharges: 5 things to know

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring hospitals in the state to create policies for discharging homeless patients, the governor's office announced Sept. 30.

Here are five things to know:

1. The law, effective July 1, 2019, will require general acute care hospitals, acute psychiatric hospitals and special hospitals to "include a written homeless patient discharge planning policy and process within the hospital discharge policy," the legislation states.

2. Hospitals must also log all homeless patient discharges and offer patients a meal, clothing, necessary medications and transportation upon discharge. In addition, the legislation grants local governments the ability to pass ordinances for stricter requirements on discharges, according to The Sacramento Bee.

3. The law seeks to prevent improper discharges — sometimes referred to as patient dumping — in which homeless patients are sent to shelters that cannot take them in or are left to recover on the streets.

4. The legislation does not outline specific penalties for hospitals that fail to follow these protocols, but facilities could face consequences from the California Department of Public Health and the federal government.

5. Peggy Wheeler, vice president of rural healthcare and governance for the California Hospital Association, expressed her concern about the law's local ordinance provision to The Sacramento Bee.

"Local ordinances could do something much more stringent than this state law, and that's where we remain opposed," she told the publication. "This law is really the floor and not the ceiling."

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