Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program plays a key role in protecting the elderly and disabled. In every state, ombudsmen serve as advocates for patients, helping them resolve complaints of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. Unfortunately, a lack of resources and staff make it difficult for the state ombudsman programs to serve the large number of people who require their services, leaving patients vulnerable to substandard care. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Improving the Quality of Long-Term Care, noted the importance of routine, on-site presence of ombudsman in detecting problems before they become serious. The report recommended one ombudsman for every 2,000 nursing home residents.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Kohl has successfully won an $8 million increase for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program since 1999. Because of these increases, the program has boosted the number of facilities visited on a quarterly basis. Still, ombudsmen are only able to visit about half of the facilities they are assigned to observe. The National Association of State Ombudsman Programs (NASOP) believes that it would take an increase of $45.5 million to fund critical services adequately, allowing for the addition of 214 ombudsmen, expansion of public education initiatives, and an upgrade in technology.