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NY nursing home watchdog program is underfunded, ineffective

Under the federal Older American Act, every U.S. state is required to establish and maintain a long-term care ombudsman program to act as a watchdog for nursing homes in that state, taking and investigating complaints from residents and families and reporting their findings to the state Health Department. The programs are paid for with a combination of state and federal funds.

Despite having more nursing home residents than any other state, New York’s ombudsman program is vastly underfunded. In fact, only four other states give their programs less funding than New York, which hasn’t increased the level of state funding since 2007. In 2012, the New York program received only about $230,000 from the state, as well as $2.56 million from the federal government.  

Critics say that the lack of state funding has caused a significant decline in the program’s effectiveness. The number of complaints handled by the ombudsmen dropped by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 201, while the number of ombudsmen also decreased from 1,041 to just under 900.

The effect of the continued lack of funding is pronounced. Last year, Families for Better Care, a national nonprofit that advocates for nursing home residents, gave New York an F on its annual state-by-state nursing home report card. More importantly, though, is the effect on individual residents throughout New York. They and their families have no effective way to report nursing home abuse, neglect and harm, causing unnecessary and avoidable illness, injury and death. It is imperative that the state increases the funding to the ombudsman program in order to prevent these preventable harms.

Source: Syracuse.com, “New York’s nursing home watchdog group should investigate more cases of poor care, critics charge,” James T. Mulder, May 18, 2014

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