Coronavirus update: On March 13, the federal government ordered long-term care facilities to restrict all visits. At this time, all visits by NJ LTCO staff are suspended. However, the NJ LTCO continues to accept complaints and will reach out to the long-term care facility by telephone in order to attempt to resolve any problems a resident might be experiencing. The LTCO can be reached by calling 1-877-582-6995 or by email at email@example.com You can find additional information on these restrictions on the NJ Department of Health website or you can call the DOH at 1-800-792-9770. Additional info for families and residents is also available on the Consumer Voice website.
In 1972, the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare awarded five contracts for Ombudsman demonstration programs throughout the country to address a growing public concern about the quality of care in nursing homes.
In 1977, the New Jersey state legislature enacted a state Ombudsman program – the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly -- in recognition of the fact that while institutionalized elderly “possess the same civil and human rights as members of every other age group, such rights may be far more difficult for certain of the elderly to secure since such persons may be afflicted with physical or mental infirmities, deprived of the comfort and counsel of family and friends, and forced to exist with minimal economic resources.”
One year later the federal Older Americans Act required all states to establish a long-term care Ombudsman program. Today, the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for the national program. Each state has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program operated through, or by, the state’s Agency on Aging.
In 1987, Congress passed landmark legislation to address the poor quality of care in many long-term care facilities. The Nursing Home Reform Act, commonly referred to as OBRA (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), set a national minimum set of standards of care and rights for people living in certified nursing facilities. The legislation and subsequent regulations specifically identified the role of Ombudsmen in advocating on behalf of residents and provided tools to achieve that role.
Both the federal and state laws have been amended in the decades since the program was started. The federal law can be found at 42 U.S.C. § 3058g and the state law can be found at N.J.S.A. § 52:27G-1 to -16. To the extent that there are conflicts between the federal and state law, the federal law must be followed over the state law.
In summer of 2017, the name of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly was changed to the New Jersey Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman when Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill 2721.