January 8, 2011 in City

Empire Health helps fund care ombudsman

By The Spokesman-Review
Fast fact

The ombudsman program, which promotes quality of life for long-term care residents, is administered by SNAP.

The program charged with protecting the rights of nursing home and assisted living residents will continue in five Eastern Washington counties thanks in part to a grant from the Empire Health Foundation.

The future of the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program was cast in doubt in October when it was told that a third of its funding – from Medicaid – would not be available after the first of the year.

This week, the program’s Spokane office learned it would receive $25,000 from the foundation, which was created in 2008 with sales proceeds of Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center.

The ombudsman program, which promotes quality of life and strives to protect long-term care residents, is administered in Spokane, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Whitman counties by SNAP, the private, nonprofit social services agency.

“We are so thankful to the foundation for this grant, which was greatly needed and appreciated,” said Linda Petrie, the regional ombudsman. “This funding fills in some of the funds that we have lost, stabilizes our program and gives us time to explore other opportunities and solutions for the 2012 year.”

Petrie’s office recruits, trains and manages 47 volunteers who respond to complaints by residents of veterans homes, nursing facilities, adult family homes and boarding homes.

The state Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is administered by the state Department of Commerce but receives most of its funding through the Department of Social and Health Services.

The Medicaid decision to end matching funds, coupled with state budget cuts, have resulted in the temporary closure of two of 13 regional offices, state ombudsman Louise Ryan said. Although the Walla Walla and Vancouver offices are closed, ombudsman volunteers are still active there, she said.

In December, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed to extend funding to the ombudsman program through June, Ryan said. In the meantime, DSHS is pursuing an alternative system of federal funding.

State funding remains in doubt during the state’s budget crisis.

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