PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today announced the establishment of the Task Force On Long-Term Care. The task force will focus on developing recommendations and metrics on how and when visitation within long-term care facilities can be safely resumed and what steps facilities can take before then to help residents and their loved ones maintain contact.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have focused on protecting those most at risk, especially our seniors and vulnerable adults,” said Governor Ducey. “Many of us have family and loved ones in these facilities and are looking for guidance on when it may be safe to visit them again. This task force will bring together public health officials, medical experts, senior advocates, private sector leaders, legislators and family members to help us chart the path forward and develop sound policy as it relates to long-term care facilities. My thanks to all members of this Task Force for your work to protect our seniors while ensuring they can remain connected to family and loved ones.”
For several months, long-term care facilities including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities have strictly limited visitation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents whose age and condition make them especially vulnerable to the illness. While the limited visitation requirements have helped protect health and safety, it has impacted residents and their loved ones and their ability to stay connected.
Responsibilities of the Task Force On Long-Term Care include:
- Making recommendations about how and when in-person visitation can safely resume at long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities,
- And making recommendations on how best to keep families informed about their loved ones in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities.
“Safely reuniting families with loved ones in long term care facilities is a critical component of Arizona’s response to COVID-19,” said Dana Kennedy, AARP State Director and member of the Task Force On Long-Term Care. “By establishing a task force with such broad and diverse representation of impacted interests, AARP is encouraged that a timely and responsible solution will be developed that will simultaneously protect public health, family members and their loved ones, as we bring families back together in the safest way possible.”
Below is the list of members being appointed to the Task Force On Long-Term Care:
- Senator Kate Brophy McGee
- Senator Tyler Pace
- Representative Regina Cobb
- Representative Joanne Osborne
- Christina Corieri, Senior Policy Advisory, Office of the Governor
- Colby Bower, Assistant Director of Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs, Arizona Department of Health Services
- Jakenna Lebsock, Assistant Director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
- Virginia Rountree, Deputy Director of Programs, Arizona Department of Economic Security
- Dana Kennedy, State Director, AARP Arizona
- Dave Voepel, CEO, Arizona Health Care Association
- Pam Koester, CEO, Arizona LeadingAge
- Rocky McKay, President, Arizona Assisted Living Homes Association
- Karen Barno, President and CEO, Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America
- Justin Stein, District Director of Operations, Brookdale Senior Living
- Scott McCutcheon, Chief Operating Officers, LivGenerations
- Tiffany Wilkins, Vice President for Operations, Spectrum Retirement
- Donna Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, LifeStream Complete Senior Living
- Joseph E. LaRue, CEO, Sun Health
- Gaile Dixon, President, Dream Catcher Assisted Living
- Heather Friebus, Administrator, Devon Gables Rehab Center
- Mason Hunter, President, Haven Health Group
- John Albrechtsen, President, Bandera (Ensign’s Arizona-based portfolio subsidiary)
- Becky Hill, family member
- Tonsa Price William, family member
- Diane Drazenski, family member
On March 11, 2020, Governor Ducey issued Arizona’s Declaration of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first action he took was issuing an Executive Order aimed at protecting populations at high-risk of serious complications from this virus. Under the order, the Arizona Department of Health Services issued emergency rules for skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities and assisted living facilities to implement visitor policies designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including:
- Instituting policies to require screening and triage before entry by staff, visitors, vendors, and contractors;
- Establishing disinfectant schedules for frequently touched surfaces;
- And establishing policies of distancing patients who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from other patients in common areas.
Governor Ducey on March 25 announced that Arizona received more than $5.3 million in grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to help Arizona communities provide meals for older adults. The dollars have supported both meal delivery programs and programs serving senior centers.
Governor Ducey on April 2 signed an Executive Order allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of maintenance medications for a 90-day supply and an additional 90-day supply if needed. This action allows elderly and at-risk Arizonans to refill a prescription while limiting their exposure to COVID-19.
The Governor on April 7 signed an Executive Order strengthening protection in residential and nursing care facilities. The order requires all staff to use appropriate personal protective equipment, implement symptom checks for those entering the facility, and offer electronic communication if visitation is restricted and more.
The Governor on May 15 announced $300,000 in funding from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund for organizations across the state that support senior citizens, the homebound and those who are medically fragile. The funding supports organizations that have provided much needed aid to vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19, by assisting with grocery shopping, meal deliveries, transportation to medical appointments, emergency errands and social interaction during a time of physical distancing.
Additionally, Governor Ducey on June 17 announced an additional $10 million for more masks and PPE in long-term care facilities to contain and mitigate spread of COVID-19. On June 29, the Governor announced a new grant program for long-term care facilities. Through the program, facilities will receive $10,000 for the purchase of electronic devices to facilitate video conferencing with residents and their families.