Advocacy, Inc. (formerly Ombudsman/Advocate, Inc.) is an independent non-profit agency serving Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. Our agency is comprised of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and the Patients’ Rights Advocate Program.
The Ombudsman Program is a federal and state mandated program charged with advocating for seniors and disabled individuals living in residential care facilities for the elderly and skilled nursing facilities. The Patients’ Rights Advocate Program is a state mandated program also charged with rights protection and advocacy for all mental health consumers residing in both counties.
Coupling both programs into an independent agency, our mission is to provide the highest level of advocacy and rights protection for the clients we serve while affording the general community with information and assistance concerning long-term care, quality of life/care issues, mental health issues and pre-facility placement procedures and guidelines.
Mandated by federal and state laws, our programs advocate for, and protect and defend the rights of, seniors in long-term care facilities and mental health consumers in both counties. We have been serving the community for over 30 years. We work with, and advocate for, residents living in over 44 residential care homes and 12 skilled nursing facilities and all mental health consumers living in the community. We provide information and assistance to families and community members who are embarking into the unfamiliar, and often frightening, worlds of long-term care or the mental health system.
As the only organization that exists with the sole mission of protecting the rights, and advocating for appropriate and quality care for these often forgotten and vulnerable populations, we: inform clients of their rights; receive, investigate and act to resolve complaints of residents in skilled and residential facilities and all community based mental health clients; receive, investigate and cross-report all reported allegations of abuse occurring in facility settings; act as a voice for those patients/residents who are unable to speak for themselves because of prejudice, fear and/or disability; train and consult with medical and mental health professionals on patients’/residents’ rights, quality of care, treatment and quality of life issues; represent involuntarily committed residents of the acute behavioral health unit in administrative due process hearings; monitor facilities to ensure that residents’ rights are being respected, appropriate treatment is provided and that the facilities are in compliance with licensing regulation; and educate the public about patients’/residents’ rights, long-term care and mental health issues.
Our target populations dictate the types of issues our staff and volunteers address. These issues and complaints range from improperly prepared food to no heat or hot water, from lack of privacy to not receiving information about treatment or medication, from verbal abuse and lack of respect to physical abuse, financial abuse and neglect, from staff not responding to a change in condition to physicians’ inaccessibility, from staff and physicians disregarding advance directives to physicians refusing treatment and/or access to hospital care. Without our presence and advocacy, the level of care and quality of life for these populations would be severely undermined.
In addition, we are responsible for investigating and assuring proper action in all alleged or suspected abuse cases in facilities. Working with local law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office and state agencies, our cases include physical abuse, financial abuse and neglect. Though the Elder/Dependent Abuse Law requires facilities to report all allegations of abuse, without our presence and the diligence of our staff and volunteers, many of these abuses would go unreported and unnoticed.
Beyond our mandated responsibilities, we have developed projects in response to unmet needs of our clients and their families and friends. These projects include the CARES Project – a facility residents’ family and friend caregiver support group; the Dementia/Mental Health Crossover Project – a collaboration with the Behavioral Health Unit staff to prevent inappropriate admission to the mental health unit and ensure that dementia behavior is treated appropriately in the least restrictive environment possible; and an outreach project to remind and inform physicians and medical staff of their mandated reporting requirements in cases of suspected elder and/or dependent adult abuse.