SB 609 (Wolk) Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Fact Sheet)
Since 2010, there have been six reported incidents of willful interference in which ombudsman representatives have been prevented from entering a facility or securing confidential access to residents.
Ombudsmen provide valuable, free, and confidential services to a vulnerable and elderly population. Many residents are unable to advocate for themselves and/or have no family or friends to assist them. Local ombudsman volunteers protect vulnerable older adults by advocating for them. Local ombudsman volunteers investigate complaints, answer questions about nursing home procedures, work with staff, and notify agencies that license and regulate the facility.
According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, approximately 11 percent of certified California nursing facilities received actual harm or immediate jeopardy citations in 2010. In fiscal year 2009-2010, California issued 1,452 citations, deficiencies, and enforcement actions to nursing facilities. These citations directly related to resident health, safety, and security as well as serious harm or death to a resident.
WHAT SB 609 DOES
- Increases civil penalties against long-term care facilities from $1,000.00 to $2,500.00 for each willful interference to hinder
- Establishes a special fund to collect civil penalties for use by the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Area Agency on Aging of Lake & Mendocino Counties, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, California Catholic Conference, California Commission on Aging, Consumer Federation of California, County Welfare Directors Association of California, Ventura County Board of Supervisors. No opposition.
Growing concern with the quality of nursing facilities led to the creation of the program in the early 1970s. The California State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is governed by the federal Older Americans Act and the Older Californians Act.
In 2008, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget cut funding for ombudsman programs by approximately $3.8 million. Many local ombudsman programs lost approximately 50% of their funding. The budget cuts translated into staff layoffs, overstretched remaining staff members, fewer visits to nursing homes, and increased reliance on volunteers, which jeopardized the health and safety of countless nursing home residents.
Increasing the civil penalty will deter facilities from willfully interfering with the activities and investigations of local ombudsman programs.