ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)– On Wednesday, The New York State Assembly held a hearing on the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The program helps to make sure residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential health care facilities have advocates.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is primarily made up of volunteers who investigate and resolve complaints for residents.

“I felt like this was a critical moment, especially coming out of the pandemic when we lost so many lives of residents in these facilities—- the very program that was designed to protect the rights of those individuals should be strengthened moving forward,” said Assemblymember Ron Kim.

During her testimony at the hearing, Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP New York said New York State’s ombudsman program ranks 39th in the country when it comes to funding. She also shared statistics from the state office for the aging on the number of ombudsman visits at nursing homes across the state.

“What we found was that during a three month period in 2022, 52% of the nursing homes across New York State did not receive a visit and what’s even more unbelievable and it’s a terrible number, but in New York City 80% of these institutions did not receive one visit during that three month period,” explained Finkel.

The program receives funding from the federal government as well as the state, but Assemblymember Ron Kim said the state needs to allocate more money to it in the budget.

“The governor put in a couple million dollars that was very much flat. We need $15 million in total to hire up to 230 full time staff members. They can visit each nursing home in the State of New York at least once a week to establish a presence and relationship with the residents. That is the gold standard. That’s what other states and cities have already and that’s where we should be,” said Kim.

Lisa Newcomb, Executive Director of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living supports more state funding for the program and added that assisted living facilities can also benefit from ombudsman.

“A good ombudsman is really good for everyone.”