On April 29, the New York State Office for the Aging released a request for applications to run the Long Term Ombuds Program (LTCOP) in fourteen regions of the state. The regional approach is a new effort by the state office to provide greater funding for local program operators. An additional $500,000 was approved in the new state budget for the LTCOP because of funding concerns raised by local program operators.
In announcing the bidding opportunity NYSOFA identified the fourteen regions and gave an overview of the impact of the program. There are 906 certified volunteers who provided 115,000 volunteer hours. The program is responsible for trying to resolve complaints and problems in 1519 long term care facilities in the state. There are 114,978 nursing home residents, 44,833 in other facilties including assisted living, adult homes and family type homes.
The program volunteers received 2215 complaints and resolved 77% successfully. There were also 49,349 requests for information and assistance from residents, families and caregivers. Long term care facilities made 4,696 requests for consultation.
When I was Director of the New York State Office for the Aging, I saw this program as a key responsibility of state government and local program operators to assure that the most vulnerable of our older citizens are treated properly and with dignity. There is a constant need to monitor and oversee complaints and concerns in long term care facilities, especially now with so many changes including county governments trying to privatize or spin off county homes they have run for years. Short staffing in facilities is another key concern with budgetary pressures and the move toward managed long term care programs paying for Medicaid recipients. During my tenure at NYSOFA, some nursing homes went into bankruptcy and local ombuds programs were appointed by the bankruptcy courts to represent the residents.
My wife and I utilized the services of the local ombuds program director and a skilled volunteer to help my wife’s aunt. We had questions about why she was losing weight and whether she had been checked for a urinary tract infection. The ombuds program helped arrange a family meeting with the staff for us. They also helped to straighten out problems with bills sent by the outsourced pharmacy. The ombuds program helped intervene and we learned that the pharmacy had not sent for several months the prescriptions to EPIC and Medicare Part D for my wife’s aunt. All her charges were reviewed and credits were applied to her bills.
I urge persons who are interested in being an ombudsperson to contact the NYSOFA or local program operators. It is another example of how “social capital” is needed to make sure that we provide the best care for older New Yorkers and we should always honor those who are doing this volunteer work.
Here is the link to the application and information