As of October 1, 2016, the State Long Term Care Ombudsman office will move from being within State government to a nonprofit wholly outside State government. That’s a good thing, and a long time coming.
The Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program has been housed within the Aging and Adult Services Department of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; formerly known as the Office of Services to the Aging. In the future, the program will be run by the Michigan Advocacy Program, an organization that operates various legal services and advocacy organizations in Michigan, including the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative; and which already houses two local LTC Ombudsman programs.
For obvious reasons, in most states, the State LTC ombudsman is housed outside state government: to maintain independence and avoid conflicts of interest. Michigan’s State LTC ombudsman was outside state government until 2004. At that time the organization which held the State LTC ombudsman contract was in disarray, and the program was ineffective. Accordingly, the decision was made to bring the program into the State. But even then it was recognized that this arrangement was less than ideal, and that the objective would be to remove the program to an independent organization when possible. That time has finally come.
The State Ombudsman administers and supports the local Long Term Care Ombudsmen, which are people who actually visit long term care facilities, support residents of those facilities, and investigate, report and resolve problems with quality of care. Currently these local ombudsmen are housed in various organizations throughout the State. The change in the arrangement with the State office will not change the situation with the local ombudsmen, at least not immediately. However, it is possible, probably desirable, that over time the new State office will consolidate management of the local ombudsmen under one entity.
The contract is for three years, and funding will remain the same.
The person that most of us know as the State Long Term Care Ombudsman is Sarah Slocum. She has been serving in that capacity since the program first moved within State government. Ms. Slocum is a state employee, and may remain with the State in another capacity, or may look for something else. One would hope that if Ms. Slocum is interested in continuing as the State Ombudsman, that she would be given serious consideration by the Michigan Advocacy Program as it looks to fill that position. Ms. Slocum is very well respected and highly experienced and knowledgeable.