Partnership formed to protect seniors at nursing homes
September 23, 2020
The state of New Mexico has created a new partnership between the state’s attorney general, auditor and ombudsman to protect seniors and specialized-care individuals at nursing homes and long-term care facilities from poor or abusive treatment.
The ombudsman also would partner with the Department of Health and Adult Protective Services to review data and elevate complaints to executive departments that have the power to investigate, issue civil penalties and prosecute if needed.
The creation of the partnership follows a request by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for the ombudsman to review complaints that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and to recommend actions to increase support for residents and their families.
“This new process will take a hard look at the information and complaints we are seeing come from families, residents and surveyors, with the goal of expanding accountability and increasing the standard of care across New Mexico,” Aging and Long Term Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said.
“We must work together and leverage the tools of our offices to protect vulnerable New Mexicans from anyone who would defraud or abuse them,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said. “Through this collaboration, we will continue to aggressively prosecute and hold individuals accountable for horrific abuse.”
The partnership is designed to ensure all complaints are expediently handled by setting up a direct referral process coordinated by the ombudsman, working closely with not only the attorney general and auditor but local district attorneys, the Department of Health and the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance as needed.
“At a time when we need strong oversight for our seniors and care-dependent New Mexicans, this referral process will enable residents and their families to restore their dignity and seek the justice they deserve,” Ombudsman Zack Quintero said..
The State Ombudsman Program recently started a new statewide initiative of wellness, dignity and access to justice during COVID-19; this announcement is part of that initiative.
“These efforts help champion the Office of the State Auditor’s fight against fraud and abuse, increasing avenues for identifying risks related to financial affairs and guardianship and conservatorship matters within our purview,” State Auditor Brian Colón said. “New Mexicans deserve financial transparency and protection, and we look forward to working with the Attorney General and Ombudsman to better serve one of our most vulnerable populations.”
The New Mexico Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program provides advocacy and resident-centered protection of the rights of New Mexicans in long-term care facilities.