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"Governor cuts funding for nursing home ombudsman"

Original source:

Santa Cruz Sentinel

JONDI GUMZ – Sentinel staff writer
Article Launched: 10/04/2008 01:33:59 AM PDT

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the state budget, he cut state funding for local ombudsman programs, which investigate complaints at nursing homes.

The decision stunned Kathleen Johnson of Advocacy Inc., which operates the ombudsman program in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

Her agency, which oversees 2,500 residents at 44 care facilities, received 900 complaints last year, including 200 alleging abuse.

"The governor makes it clear that the most vulnerable and least visible population in our state does not merit protection, advocacy, respect or a voice," Johnson said, adding all the nursing homes in the county have deficiencies that need to be addressed.

The governor's cut removes $35,000 in state funds from a $200,000 local budget for ombudsman.

The state cut translates to a loss of 1.25 positions out of 3.7 positions, which Johnson said would make it harder to respond to complaints and protect the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.

The local agency also advocates for quality of care for residents and provides training for facility staff on how to prevent abuse.

Johnson worries the state cut will trigger a $15,000 loss of federal matching funds, bringing the total loss to $50,000. The agency's other funding sources are county contracts, support by United Way and private donations.

"That's what we're functioning on now," she said, noting the 85-day delay in approving a state budget cut off funding from Sacramento since July. "We may have to dip into reserves."

She plans to meet with Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, next week.

"Ordinarily, I would beg for donations," she said. "But the people who would ordinarily donate are trying to figure out if they have any money left to donate."