Ombudsman board president calls decision to close service “devastating”

inyocourthousePRESS RELEASE

Ombudsman / Advocacy Services to Close

(Bishop, CA)    After nearly 23 years as the state-designated provider of Long-term Care Ombudsman services in Inyo and Mono counties, Ombudsman / Advocacy Services of Inyo & Mono (OASIM) will close its doors on March 31st.    At it’s November 6, 2012 meeting, the County Board of Supervisors voted to place the program within the  Inyo County Health and Human Services department, rather than request bids from local organizations to run the program as it has since the early 1980’s.    The county will now assume operation of the ombudsman program on April 1st.

Under the Older American’s Act, the Long-term Care Ombudsman program was developed to ensure quality care and respect for the rights of persons in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Trained and state-certified volunteers make regular visits to the facilities, getting to know residents, family members and staff.   They are available to hear complaints and concerns, investigate and resolve problems, and observe how the staff interacts with residents.    The ombudsman program has also provided in-service trainings for facility staff, community presentations on long term care issues such as services and resources, residents’ rights, and recognizing and reporting elder abuse including financial abuse.

According to Patricia Gardner, a founding board member and current president of the board, “The decision by the Board of Supervisors was both a surprise and devastating to our staff and volunteers.    O/ASIM was formed to specifically meet the need for an organization to recruit and train volunteers to advocate for the rights of seniors in long-term care facilities, to receive, investigate and resolve problems and complaints of the residents, and educate the elderly, their families and the community on issues of long term care.    The program’s volunteers have exceeded many of the state-wide performance benchmarks, visiting all facilities at least twice a month compared to once a quarter as required, complaints are generally resolved within five days, and we have been able to meet many of the state mandated requirements without cutting other services.   We believe we have upheld the mission of the ombudsman program and would continue to do so if given the opportunity.”

Kathryn Williams, OASIM Executive director stated, “The residents of long-term care facilities are often the least represented members of our society.    Many of them no longer have family, the facility is their last ‘home’ and they are afraid to complain, fearing they may be evicted.    The volunteer ombudsman program is vital to these residents.  It gives residents an impartial, yet caring, person to talk to, to help solve problems, and be a friend, when needed.    I have had the opportunity to work with many wonderful volunteers during the past 15 years, and will miss them and the other senior service providers in the community.  We want the residents and their families to know how much we appreciated the opportunity to work with them and help them to maintain their quality of life.”

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