Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Law Restores Partial Funding to Program Aimed at Fighting Nursing Home Abuse

Assembly Bill 392, signed into law on August 6, 2009, restores $1.6 million for local Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs. With this funding, local ombudsman programs should be able to reinstate some of the staff and services lost due to last year's budget cuts, providing critical monitoring of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

In 2008, about half of the Ombudsman budget, $3.8 million, was cut from the state budget in a gubernatorial veto. AB 392 restores less than half of that amount, which means the ombudsman programs will still operate with less staff and services than in the past, but hopefully with enough resources to address the most critical complaints.

Funding for the program will come from compliance penalties paid by nursing homes, so AB 392 should not have any direct impact on the state's General Fund.

The requirement for a long-term care ombudsman is actually a creature of federal law. Since 1978, the Older Americans Act has required every state to have an ombudsman program to receive and investigate complaints made by or on behalf of nursing home residents, and to advocate for changes and improvements in the long-term care system.

The author of AB 392, Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), was recently recognized as a 2009 True Friend of Seniors by the California Congress of Seniors for his work in securing passage of the bill.

Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to physical and mental incapacity. Nursing home residents are at even greater risk due to isolation from the public, friends, and family who might notice abuse or neglect or to whom the victims could complain. Local ombudsmen programs fulfill vital functions by conducting surprise visits to facilities and investigating complaints that come to their attention.

With the ombudsman program only partially restored, it is more critical than ever that residents have access to a voice to speak on their behalf. The Casiano Law Firm is dedicated to fighting nursing home abuse and serving the legal needs of seniors and their families. If you have personally experienced nursing home abuse or neglect or have a loved one in a facility and suspect abuse or neglect, contact me immediately for a confidential consultation.