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December 1, 2008

Elder Care: Cutbacks Threaten Voice for the Elderly (CA. USA)

Cutbacks threaten voice for the elderly
By RENEE RAMSEY
For the North County Times
November 30, 2008

A powerful voice for the elderly in San Diego County is facing the same budget threats already dismantling similar programs in other counties this fall."It really is going to be devastating," said Chris O'Connell, coordinator of San Diego County's long-term care ombudsman program for Aging and Independence Services, or AIS.

Earlier this fall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a line item veto, eliminated the $3.8 million in state funding for the program that trains and oversees volunteer ombudsmen who advocate for the rights of seniors living in long-term care facilities.The concern is that inspections by other agencies only happen once a year or once every five years, O'Connell said, making the ombudsman the only regular "outsider" to hear and relay concerns.If the program is cut, "the bottom line is, the residents will suffer," she said. "The majority of residents don't have family or friends to regularly visit."

In California, McGinnis said the cutbacks are happening just months before a new California law becomes effective Jan. 1 requiring additional reporting responsibilities by the volunteer ombudsmen in cases of elder abuse.This is on top of a California law requiring that long-term care ombudsmen be present for advanced directives involving health care and "end of life" decisions, she added."There are a lot of mandates, but where's the funding?" she asked.

McGinnis is urging the public to contact local legislators, the California Office on Aging and governor's office to demand emergency action to restore the state funds.

Abridged
SOURCE: North County Times
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