Report: Nursing Home Abuse Cases Might Be Going Underreported
On Tuesday, California's Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released a report suggesting that budget cuts might have weakened the state's ability to investigate elder abuse cases in long-term care facilities, the AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) requested the report.
Last fall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) eliminated all state funding for the nursing home ombudsman program. The action reduced the program's budget to $4 million in federal funds, down from $7.9 million in combined funds the year before.
The budget cuts led the ombudsman program to cut staff positions in many areas of the state. Lower staffing levels also compelled the program to cut back on announced and unannounced inspections of long-term care facilities.
In fiscal year 2010, the ombudsman program's budget is slated to increase to $5.7 million.
Since last year's budget cuts took effect, the number of complaints filed by the ombudsman program has declined by more than 40%, according to the Senate report. The report's authors warned that the drop in complaints could indicate that some elder abuse cases are going unreported.
The report also noted that tensions between federal and state regulations might be hindering efforts to report abuse cases.The federal Older Americans Act prohibits state officials from reporting elder abuse without written consent of the resident in question. However, California regulations state that ombudsmen have a responsibility to report all abuse cases, with or without the resident's permission (Mohajer, AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/3). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.