SUAs and AAAs are deeply committed to and provide support for the ombudsman program, others still provide little financial or ideologic support to programs that serve the elderly who reside in nursing facilities and other LTC facilities. The committee’s recommendation (3.4) calling for a more unified Office of the State LTC Ombudsman program should help to overcome many of these barriers. However, cooperation and coordination from SUAs and AAAs or other local host representatives are essential to achieving that goal.
Offices of the LTC State Ombudsman program and SUAs can best comply with operational mandates if their infrastructures are strong. Each state program must build its infrastructure in a manner that is as free of conflicts of interest as possible (see Chapter 4). Strong enabling legislation and program independence build a strong infrastructure. Program independence, in particular, allows the Office of the State LTC Ombudsman program to serve as the pivotal point for a unified entity throughout the state. In the Chaitovitz canvass (1994b), 10 state ombudsmen reported that neither legislation nor regulation adequately supports their program authority and independence. Other ombudsmen noted that legislation nominally protects their program independence, but that implementing program independence in a political environment is no easy task.
Infrastructures are built with real resources; ombudsman programs that operate in compliance need more than authorization and compassion. Financial resources, information management, legal counsel, and human resources are key. (Chapters 5 and 6 provide more specific information on this topic. See Tables 5.5a through 5.5d in particular.) The committee recognizes that adequate legal counsel is an integral part of the ombudsman program and makes additional comments herein.
The OAA charges SUAs with the responsibility of ensuring adequate legal counsel for the LTC ombudsman program. In the same section, the OAA also charges the SUA with ensuring that the Office of the State LTC Ombudsman program pursues administrative, legal, and other appropriate remedies on behalf of residents. The protection of residents’ rights is referred to no fewer