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Senate Bill 83 provides advocacy to seniors through Alaska's Long Term Care Ombudsman program

Governor Bill Walker signed two pieces of legislation August 2, 2017, to update laws designed to protect Alaskans and their assets. Senate Bill 83 allows state agencies responsible for vulnerable seniors to work together more efficiently and effectively, while House Bill 108 updates Alaska’s fiduciary law by adapting it to today’s internet age. Both bills were signed at the Anchorage Pioneer Home.

Back row: Pioneer Home Director Amanda Lofgren; Duane Mayes, Director, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services; Teresa Holt, Long Term Care Ombudsman; Randy Hoffbeck, Commissioner, Department of Revenue; Rep. Ivy Sponholz; Anchorage Pioneer Home Administrator Richard Saville. Front row: Liellia "Bobbye" Curry; Gov. Bill Walker; Alice Green. — with Alaska Governor Bill Walker at Anchorage Pioneers' Home.
Photo courtesy: Office of the Governor, Alaska.

This legislation brings Alaska’s statutes of the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman into alignment with federal changes from the Administration on Community Living. See more about these changes in the article below from the summer issue of the ACoA (Alaska Commision on Aging) newsletter.

ALASKA LONG TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN

As Long Term Care Ombudsmen for Alaska, our mission is to meet with residents of assisted living homes and nursing facilities to see if they have any issues they need assistance in resolving. Established by the Older Americans Act, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program is mandated to provide independent oversight and advocacy services to seniors in Alaska’s long term care facilities. The Long Term Care Ombudsman program is designed to protect the rights, health, safety, and welfare of Alaskans living in long term care facilities. In Alaska, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program also provides advocacy to seniors with complaints about their residential circumstances.

In 2016, the Older Americans Act was reauthorized and new regulations for Long Term Care Ombudsman were created. As a result, the federal Administration for Community Living reviewed all states to ensure compliance with these changes. Through this review, two Alaska statues were identified as being out of alignment with the reauthorized Older Americans Act and Long Term Care Ombudsman regulations. The Governor introduced Senate bill 83 to amend provisions of Alaska statute 47.62 Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman and 47.24 protection of vulnerable adults to ensure alignment with the Older Americans Act and its implementing regulations. Currently, SB 83 is awaiting signature by the Governor after passing the House and Senate. Briefly, this bill:

    • Aligns state statutes with federal statutes and regulations to ensure Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman only shares resident information with informed consent and to ensure Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman can obtain records to investigate and make referrals when resident is unable to provide informed consent.

    • Removes (due to a conflict of interest) the option for mandatory reporters to meet reporting requirements by submitting report to the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman.

    • Clarifies the separation of the role of the Long Term Care Ombudsman from the role of Department of Health and Social Services (Adult Protective Services and long term care licensing).

    • Clarifies that Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman may serve residents in long term care facilities under the age of 60.