Some nursing home residents have experienced months-long separations from family as visitation restrictions have limited face-to-face time with loved ones. Lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Wednesday hoping to address that.

Senate Bill 2145 would give residents more in-person support by increasing access to facilities for those designated as essential caregivers. The bill allows a resident to choose a person who is allowed to enter the facility, even under an emergency declaration, to provide physical, spiritual or emotional support.

Sen. Kristin Roers sponsored the bill and says many of the restrictions come from the federal level, and include regulations that just don’t work for North Dakota — like outdoor visitation in winter.

“The more we can pass some things at the state level that will really help support the idea that people need caregivers, that isolation is probably as dangerous as COVID is to our elderly, the better we can maybe put some upward pressure on the federal government to loosen some of those regulations and allow the states to figure out what plan works for them,” Roers said.

The bill has an emergency clause, which means if passed by the House and signed by the governor, it could take effect before the session even ends.