A new bipartisan group whose aim is to evaluate and address coronavirus-related challenges for nursing homes and similar facilities is coming under fire from state Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford).
The ranking member of the General Assembly’s Aging Committee, Kelly maintains that the membership of the Nursing Home & Assisted Living Oversight Working Group should include members of his committee, as well as elderly residents – a view shared by AARP Connecticut.
Kelly – who represents the 21st Senate District including Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford – said the membership and scope of the group, “while well-intentioned, misses the mark and sends a message that seniors are not the state’s top priority.
“Despite having 34 members, the working group does not include a single person who resides in a nursing home facility or any seniors who receive home care supports,” Kelly said. “Everyone should have a voice in this conversation, but most important is to give a voice to those who have been most affected by the pandemic – nursing home residents and seniors living in isolation at home.”
The group is co-chaired by State Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven), the House chair of the Appropriations Committee, and a soon-to-be named co-chair from the executive branch, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.
The group’s formation follows a report issued last month by the independent firm Mathematica that examined the impact of Covid-19 on Connecticut’s long-term care facilities and the state’s response to the pandemic.
The working group’s mission is to make recommendations on proposed legislation for the 2021 legislative session addressing lessons learned from Covid-19, including structural challenges in the operation and infrastructure of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as changes needed to meet the demands of any future pandemic.
“We’ve taken many steps to address the outbreak of Covid-19 within our long-term care facilities,” Lamont said, “but we must continue being proactive and take the appropriate steps to make improvements and ensure that the quality and safety of some of the most vulnerable residents in our state remains a top priority.
“Working collaboratively, we can develop the appropriate legislative solutions that will help address many of these challenges,” he added.
The group will hold most of its meetings on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and will be available to the public via the Connecticut Network (CT-N).
The group’s membership includes an array of representatives from both the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as long-term care providers, organized labor, and consumer advocates, including the long-term care ombudsman who represents residents of long-term care facilities and their families.
“I am disappointed that despite repeated requests to include the bipartisan Aging Committee in this working group, our committee was not included,” Kelly said. “The Aging Committee is specifically and uniquely focused on being advocates for elderly individuals most at risk and looks at any and all legislation solely from the perspective of seniors.”
Noting that such committees as Appropriations, Human Services, Public Health, and Labor & Public Employees are included, while Aging is not, Kelly said: “The message being sent by excluding the Aging Committee is that budgets, unions and providers take precedence over the well-being of seniors – the very people who are most vulnerable to the pandemic and who have suffered the greatest losses.
“Connecticut failed in its response to Covid-19 in our nursing homes in the spring,” he continued. “Connecticut’s response was third worst in the nation for percentage of deaths in nursing homes, with our average death rate nearly double the national average. Isolation of seniors in nursing homes and at home has led to further decline in well-being and poorer health outcomes.
“The Mathematica report was an indictment on the administration, which still unbelievably does not have a plan for a second wave and only now is organizing this working group,” Kelly said. “Including seniors who actually live and experience these issues, as well as including the Aging Committee, which is specifically tasked with advocating for seniors, would send a strong message that the state recognizes these issues and is ready to make a significant change to put seniors first.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.