In May 2023, the Missouri legislature approved the FY24 budget, which included a line item of $2.2 million in enhanced funding for the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. This funding was intended to hire around 25 new ombudsmen across the state, doubling the program’s capacity and bringing the program in line with national standards. Twelve ombudsmen would have been in the area VOYCE serves. However, in June, Governor Parson vetoed this line item, leaving nursing home residents in Missouri vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
On September 13, the Missouri Legislature had a chance to restore the enhanced funding for our state’s Ombudsman Program by overriding the governor’s veto.
Representative Deb Lavender brought the motion forward by saying, “A quarter of the money we appropriated in this last budget went unspent…Please don’t tell me we can’t afford this relatively small amount of ongoing money to keep our seniors safe. It’s just not true. Our most vulnerable seniors deserve our support.” This was followed by support from Representative Peter Merideth, who stated, “This [line item] really does make a tangible difference in the real lives of seniors that need the help.”
Unfortunately, when it came down to a vote, our state elected officials voted in support of the governor’s decision to veto the funding. And our state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program will remain understaffed for another year. But, more importantly, our state’s nursing home residents will continue to receive poor quality care in nursing homes that are understaffed, uninspected for health and safety issues, and without proper access to the advocates that protect them.
At VOYCE, we understand that addressing the systemic issues in long-term care will take many years. Still, we believe the Ombudsman Program can be an immediate resource the state can utilize now to protect residents and alleviate suffering. The Missouri legislature will reconvene in early January, and we plan to return again with the same simple request for state lawmakers- protect our loved ones in nursing homes!
How You Can Help
Are you curious about how your representative voted? Check out the roll call vote. Individuals with a ‘Y’ next to their name voted in support of the program funding- Please reach out and thank them for their support! Those with a ‘N’ beside their name voted against the program funding. If your representative voted ‘No,’ please reach out to let them know why the Ombudsman Program is essential to you and your family and ask that they fully fund the program in FY25.