Aging Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5285

Title:

AN ACT REQUIRING THE STATE OMBUDSMAN TO INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS CONCERNING RECIPIENTS OF HOME AND COMMUNITY-BASED CARE.

Vote Date:

3/8/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/25/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Aging Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To offer advocacy and safeguard the rights of home and community-based care recipients by expanding the oversight of the State Ombudsman to home and community-based services. Currently, the State Ombudsman is charged with providing advocacy and protections for residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing facilities, residential care homes, and assisted living facilities.

The bill expands the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman's oversight to include home and community-based care recipients. Additionally, the bill creates the position of Assistant State Ombudsman.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Elizabeth B. Ritter, Commissioner, State Department on Aging: Opposes the bill. The State Department on Aging (SDA) cannot support the expansion of the State Ombudsman's services to community-based services without preparation, planning, funding, or procedures to ensure the services would be delivered appropriately, efficiently, economically, legally, respectfully, or responsibly. Currently, there has been no work done to develop a practice model or structure for the expansion. Additionally, there are no funding opportunities to fund community ombudsman services.

Deb Migneault, Senior Policy Analyst, Connecticut's Legislative Commission on Aging: Provided comment on the bill. PA 13-234 established a pilot program for Hartford to have the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program safeguard the rights of those living in their homes and communities. Funds for this program were not released and had been eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 Biennium Budget. The Long-term Care Ombudsman does not have the capacity to staff a pilot or new mandates without additional funds. Existing federal funds are not allowed to be used for community based services.

Nancy Shaffer, State Ombudsman, Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman: Provided comment on the bill. Public Act 04-158 mandated the Connecticut Long Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) to develop and implement a pilot project to provide advocacy services to individuals living in Hartford and West Hartford. Lack of funding for this pilot caused the project to be developed with limited existing state resources; the Older American's Act Ombudsman funds may not be used for community services. States with community LTCO services have created funding steams to provide for the development and implementation of the programs, such as state funds, nursing home bed taxes, tobacco taxes, or state lottery earnings. However, this project did reveal significant issues related to community care and services. Examples provided by LTCO include lack of transportation for elders and negligent caregivers.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Louise Harmon, MSW Student, University of Connecticut: The number of adults age 65 and older receiving home care, or are in residential settings other than nursing homes, is rising. Low pay, high turnover, and a lack of supervision for home care workers create conditions in which abuse and neglect could thrive. This bill is a step towards closing a gap in protection against elder abuse and neglect by home care workers.

Mag Morelli, President, LeadingAge Connecticut: Although in support of the concept of expanding the roll of the Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman (OLTCO), the definition of “home and community-based services” as contained in the bill is broad and potentially overwhelming. Refining the definition of home and community based services would clarify the expectation and responsibilities of the OLTCO.

John D. Shulansky, Managing Director, EldersChoice of Connecticut, LLC: Supports the bill; however, this bill requires adequate funding in order to be effective.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None

Reported by: Richard Ferrari/Robin Bumpen

Date: 3/16/2016