The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center provides support, technical assistance and training to the 53 State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs and their statewide networks of almost 600 regional (local) programs. The Center's objectives are to enhance the skills, knowledge, and management capacity of the State programs to enable them to handle residents' complaints and represent resident interests (individual and systemic advocacy). Funded by the Administration on Aging (AoA), the Center is operated by Consumer Voice, The National Consumer Voice for Quailty Long-Term Care, in cooperation with the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD).
All tasks undertaken by the Center are designed and developed with input from state and local long-term care ombudsmen, the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen (NASOP), the National Association of Local Long Term Care Ombudsmen (NALLTCO) and other relevant organizations to ensure that the needs of ombudsman programs across the country are being addressed. These tasks are developed with the understanding that in supporting the long-term care ombudsmen, the Center is ultimately contributing to the improvement of the quality of life and care of frail, vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities. The Center engages in the following activities and services:
- Provides consultation and information and referral for ombudsmen and for the residents, families and others who use ombudsman services;
- Provides training opportunities and training resources for state and local programs;
- Promotes public awareness of the role of ombudsmen in long-term care;
- Works to improve ombudsmen effectiveness in meeting the needs of residents, including those served by managed care organizations and those in alternative settings, such as Medicaid waiver programs;
- Identifies research needs and promotes research on issues which affect the ombudsman programs or their constituents;
- Supports the ombudsman volunteer component through work with AARP and other national or state-wide efforts to recruit volunteers for the program;
- Works cooperatively with all organizations and agencies which have as their mission the protection of the frail elderly who reside in long-term care settings and
- Promotes understanding and cooperation between ombudsman programs and citizen advocacy groups.
The Ombudsman Program was created in 1972 as a Public Health Service demonstration project to meet the needs of residents facing problems in nursing homes. The demonstration, which consisted of ombudsman programs in seven states, was transferred to AoA in 1974. After three years of operation and a successful assessment of the projects, Dr. Arthur Flemming, Commissioner on Aging, offered each state agency on aging an opportunity to apply for limited federal funds to develop a state-wide program through the advocacy of newly named Ombudsman Developmental Specialists. In 1978, Congress amended the Older Americans Act to include a requirement that each state develop a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. New statutory requirements for the program were added and existing requirements were strengthened in subsequent amendments to the Act.
In 1988, AoA requested proposals to develop a National Center for State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resources. NASUAD received the initial grant, with a sub-grant to the Consumer Voice (formerly National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform). The 1992 Older Americans Act amendments added a new provision (Section 202 [a][A-B]) requiring the Administration on Aging to establish a permanent National Ombudsman Resource Center. In 1993, AoA awarded a three-year grant for the Center to the Consumer Voice, with NASUAD as a sub-grantee. In 1997, the Consumer Voice received a new five-year grant to operate the Center, with NASUAD as a sub-grantee.
During recent years, the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center has been increasingly responsive to the ever more sophisticated needs of long-term care ombudsmen. Each week, Center staff respond to an average of 30 requests for technical assistance from state and regional (local) ombudsman programs and/or consumers needing referral to a long term care ombudsman program. Center staff provide information and guidance on a variety of issues, some of which are quite complex, related to resident quality of care and life, state and federal laws and regulations on enforcement and long term care financing, the 1998-2000 Presidential initiatives on neglect and abuse, and ombudsman programmatic concerns.
The Center also coordinates training opportunities for the ombudsman network. All ombudsmen are encouraged to attend the Consumer Voice annual meeting. Center staff develop sessions on a wide variety of topics ombudsmen have identified as being important to their work. In addition, training conferences for state ombudsmen are held each spring. Special orientation sessions for new state ombudsmen are conducted semi-annually, in conjunction with these national meetings.