A group of local ombudsmen and other advocates for the elderly are calling for a fully independent statewide office for California's aging population, saying the current political appointee in charge has failed to protect their interests.
Anticipating the call to overhaul his office, state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Joseph Rodrigues said he has been assured by the Schwarzenegger administration that he can speak out more freely on behalf of seniors.
As the current elder-care ombudsman for the state, Rodrigues is a political appointee who operates within the state’s Health and Human Services Agency and oversees a network of local (and increasingly activist) elder-care ombudsman offices.
In California, people who work with the elderly or disabled are mandated to tell local ombudsmen or police about neglect or abuse they observe in nursing homes and other residential care. Ombudsman offices statewide received 43,500 complaints last year, investigating many and standing up for the elders involved.
The Committee for an Independent State Office includes representatives from elder advocacy groups, including the California AARP, and local elder-care ombudsman program managers.
Linda Robinson, who coordinates the ombudsman program in Santa Cruz County, spoke during an Assembly committee on aging hearing Tuesday, saying the state office has muzzled local elder advocates from speaking to the media and failed to speak up about legislation that would benefit seniors.
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Local Elder-Care Ombudsmen Revolt, Call for Independent Leader