After a year of Texans having to battle COVID mandates, the Texas Senate passed bills aimed at ensuring citizen’s rights to be with their loved ones in nursing homes.

Wednesday, senators unanimously passed Senate Bill 25, and later Senate Joint Resolution 19 on a 29-0 vote.

The bills would allow for a designated caregiver to maintain visitation in nursing homes and state living centers, even during emergency-related restrictions.

Both bills were authored by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham).

After Gov. Greg Abbott issued his mandates and restrictions in response to the Chinese Coronavirus last March, Texans suddenly found themselves banned from being with their loved ones in long-term care facilities.

“In general, I can tell you that in addition to the number of people who have lost their lives due to the despondency, and weight loss, and rapid cognitive decline that just comes from the loss of the will to continue living in this kind of isolation, what we are also facing here is a mental health crisis both inside and outside of long-term care facilities,” Mary Nichols of Texas Caregivers for Compromise previously said.

When Abbott issued his latest executive order opening Texas more and ending his statewide mask mandate, he didn’t mention long-term care facilities.

During the Senate’s consideration of SB 25, Kolkhorst shared comments she received from citizens about their loved ones in long-term care facilities during this time of restrictions.

He begged me to raise bond money because he thought somebody had locked him in a jail.

She cannot make eye contact and could not hear me through a closed window. Those were pointless visits.

She felt like an old piece of junk.

“This is how we’re going to traverse public health emergencies in the future so that we don’t save our elderly to death,” Kolkhorst said Wednesday about SB 25.

Nichols praised how senators voted.

“Senator Kolkhorst is an extraordinary advocate who was able to convey our year of anguish to the Senate in just a few minutes,” she told Texas Scorecard. “I’m hopeful the House is just as willing to take these critical steps for long-term care residents as the Senate.”

SB 25 and SJR 19 now advance to the Texas House, and Nichols asks citizens to contact their state representative to help advance them both. “Soon, because there is no telling when the House may hear these,” she said.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.