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Governor Hochul’s State Budget Fails to Address Nursing Homes Oversight: AARP NY Report

Posted on 02/13/24

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Designed to Protect Vulnerable Residents, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Lacks the Funding to Do Its Job Right

ALBANY, N.Y. – A New York State nursing homes oversight program designed to protect some of our most frail and vulnerable residents continues to fail in its stated goal of visiting every facility at least once a week, a stark indication that thousands of aging New Yorkers still are lacking a vital layer of protection, according to a report by AARP New York.

Governor Hochul’s 2024-25 state budget plan cuts support for the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) that has been woefully underfunded for years and neglected by the Hochul Administration.

The federally required LTCOP, administered by the State Office for the Aging (SOFA), is supposed to be the voice of the frail elderly in nearly 1,400 adult care institutions. It helps residents and their family caregivers understand and exercise residents’ rights and intervenes to help protect residents by resolving specific quality-of-care issues. LTCOP’s stated goal is to have a regular presence in all long-term care facilities, which is considered at least one visit per week per facility.

The latest review by AARP New York of SOFA’s own records from the fourth quarter of 2022 and the latest data from 2023 finds that only 12% of facilities received a weekly visit in person by an ombudsman. While that figure is up from 9% it still means 88% of all institutions statewide did not get visited by an ombudsman at least once a week.

“It’s a sad and startling fact: New York State continues to underfund a program that serves as the on-the-scene advocate for some of our frailest New Yorkers, said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “While there are improvements in some regions of the state in the number of facilities that received weekly visits, the overall picture is nothing to crow about. LTCOP needs adequate funding – not cuts – to carry out its job the way it was intended, thus ensuring each facility gets visited by an ombudsman at least once a week. This personal and hands-on layer of oversight is vital to family caregivers who cannot be at their loved one’s side as well as for ensuring the well-being and safety of residents living in nursing homes and other adult care facilities.”

Most LTCOP ombudsman are volunteers who do extraordinary work addressing the needs of adult care residents. But the program overly relies on volunteers because it lacks enough professional staff, limiting its ability to meet the demand for services and care by long-term care facilities’ residents. LTCOP has had its funding increased by $5 million in the last two state budgets, with 24 full-time employees added to its staff. Yet, that is not enough, as evidenced by AARP New York’s latest LTCOP report.

The report also contains nearly 1,100 complaints concerning quality adult care reported in a single quarter. The complaints regarding poor-quality care include accidents and falls, response to requests for assistance, medications, personal hygiene, access to health-related services, incontinence care and infection control.

In addition, 37 complaints in the same reporting period concerned gross neglect and exploitation that includes physical and sexual abuse.

Among the report’s findings:

  • In some of the state’s most populous counties – including Nassau, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester – there was no increase in the number of weekly visits during the period reviewed
  • New York City, home to the most facilities – nearly 300 – saw no improvements, with over 98 percent of all facilities not receiving a weekly visit
  • A four-county region in western New York that includes the city of Buffalo saw a less than 3% increase in the number of facilities receiving a weekly visit

Not only did Governor Hochul fail to include much-needed additional funding for LTCOP, but her proposed budget would cut program funding by $2.5 million – undoing the progress made in last year’s enacted state budget. That’s inexcusable. AARP New York is calling on her and the leaders in the State Senate and Assembly to include in the final state budget the additional $15 million in funding needed to increase the program's effectiveness and ensure long-term care residents are receiving the quality care they deserve.
“We need the Governor to be a leader on this issue,” Finkel said. “By working with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins, the Governor can come to the budget table to provide the necessary funds and program enhancements that will allow the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program to succeed. Our parents, grandparents, siblings and other loved ones living in adult care facilities are counting on it.”

Connect with AARP New York on X: @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

About AARP

AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to the more than 100 million Americans 50-plus and their families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation's largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/about-aarp/, www.aarp.org/español or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspañol and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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