LANSING — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) hailed the passage of Senate Bill 809 by the House of Representatives today as a move that will help ensure veterans and their families receive quality care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. The bill, patterned after Rep. Brinks’ House Bill 5088, would establish an ombudsman’s office to respond to concerns raised by the residents of state veterans homes and their families.

“Ever since I came to office in 2013, the residents and families of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans have been coming to me with their concerns about the quality of care at state-run Grand Rapids Home for Veterans,” Rep. Brinks said. “I’ve been sounding the alarm since then, and it’s taken two deplorable state audits of the conditions at the home for the Legislature to respond. I’m grateful that my effort to create an ombudsman’s office for the residents of the homes and their families has resulted in this bill being passed in the House today.”

The legislation comes on the heels of the most recent state audit, which found that:

  • Location and fall alarm checks failed to take place 43 percent of the time and 33 percent of the time, respectively — however, the incidents were reported as if checks had occurred 100 percent of the time and 96 percent of the time, respectively.
  • The staffing contractor failed to meet adequate staffing guidelines 81 percent of the time in a four-month period, with shortages of as many as 22 people per day.
  • Allegations of neglect and abuse were routinely ignored. Nine of 10 complaints alleging abuse or neglect weren’t forwarded to the director of nursing, and 91 percent of complaints in the 23-month period covered by the audit were referred to the manager of the department under complaint, rather than a supervisor or administrator outside the department.
  • Medications were often not distributed according to care plans. During the 23-month period of the audit, 39 percent of nonnarcotic prescriptions were refilled late or more than five days early.

“The establishment of an ombudsman’s office will give residents and their families an avenue to address this kind of neglect and poor care in the future,” Rep. Brinks said. “Our dedicated veterans have earned the best care we can possibly give them, and I urge the governor to waste no time in signing this bill into law.”