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"Governor cuts funding for long term care ombudsman program"

Original source:

Sacramento Business Journal

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
by Kathy Robertson Staff writer

In a little-publicized line-item veto last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated state funding for California’s long-term care ombudsman program.

The $3.8 million cut represents half the funding for ombudsman services. The program investigates elder abuse and other complaints on behalf of 250,000 residents of California’s 1,300 nursing homes and more than 8,000 assisted living facilities.

“We are in a very difficult financial environment, as evidenced this week,” said Sarah Ludeman, spokeswoman for the California Department of Aging, which administers the program. “Each area will try to do the best they can with the money left.”

The cut came days after the federal government issued a report condemning conditions in nursing homes.

In each of the past three years, over 91 percent of nursing homes surveyed nationwide were cited for deficiencies, according to a Sept. 18 report by Inspector General Daniel Levinson.

In California, 99.1 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies in 2007 and California nursing homes had an average of 11.8 deficiencies, second in the nation to Wyoming, which had 12.3.

The most common deficiencies cited nationwide related to quality of care, resident assessment and quality of life. Seventeen percent of nursing homes surveyed last year were cited for deficiencies that posed actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents.

“This cut is absolutely devastating,” said Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, in San Francisco. “Some of these programs are going to be closing.”

The cut is retroactive to July 1, so some programs are already hurting because they have spent money since that date, McGinnis said.