In Arizona the Department of Economic Security (DES) is the designated Arizona Long-Term Care Ombudsman, delegating the Ombudsman services to each Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for their respective regions. A LongTerm Care Ombudsman is a specially trained advocate for residents of longterm care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult foster care homes. They seek to improve the quality of life, care, and environment for long-term care residents and work to resolve problems individual residents face.
The Department of Economic Security estimates that as of January 2019 there were a total of 55,456 licensed beds that fall under the purview of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. The Ombudsman program is a mandate of the Older Americans Act, which requires that people residing in long-term care facilities have regular and timely access to the services of the Ombudsman program. Regular access is defined as once per quarter, in addition to the work done to resolve problems and other disputes that may arise. Currently, Ombudsman staff around the state struggle to meet the goal of a visit per quarter.
In 2009, the Institute of Medicine recommended that there should be one paid FTE Ombudsman for every 2,000 licensed beds. Currently in Arizona, there are nearly 20 FTE professionals serving as Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. At current staffing levels, given the funding provided, there is one FTE Ombudsman for every 2,773 beds in Arizona, well above the recommended amount. In some regions there are over 3,500 beds per paid Ombudsman.
To meet the staffing levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine, the AAAs would need 33 FTEs, which is an additional 13 FTEs.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is funded through a combination of state and federal dollars, with the majority of the funds coming from the State of Arizona. In FY 2018-2019 there is $1,201,059 funding provided to the AAAs for the Ombudsman program. To serve Arizona’s long-term care facility residents, the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging is requesting an additional $1,000,000 to begin increasing staffing to meet the Institute of Medicine’s staffing recommendations.