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Care by Numbers

Albany County comptroller offers statistics to support his call for a new nursing home

by Chet Hardin on February 4, 2010

This week, Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners launched a press push for a new nursing-home facility based on information he claimed he received from the New York State Department of Health after a lengthy FOIL request process.

This data illustrated, Conners said, that in 2008, 107 Albany County residents were sent out of state to receive long-term nursing home care. These residents were sent to multiple locations in Massachusetts, as well as to one location in New Jersey. Further, he said, 761 residents were shipped out of the county.

Conners’ press release garnered attention from local TV stations and the Times Union, as well as from Talk1300’s Dan Lynch, who hosted a debate between Conners and Albany County Executive Mike Breslin. Conners and Breslin have very different interpretations of the data.

Breslin argued that the reality of people being sent out of state is a complex one, determined by a number of issues: medical needs, dangerous behavioral issues, even choice. Further, the state determines where a nursing home patient is placed. Currently, more than 20 percent of the people residing in Albany County Nursing Home are from out of the county.

Breslin and others familiar with the issue of long-term care point out that this is not a new phenomenon; it is a product of the complexity of long-term Medicaid-based care. Despite his recent concern, Conners clearly acknowledged this fact in an interview with Metroland by stating that he has been complaining about the practice at least since the early 1990s, when he served on the county legislature.

Where these two men differ the most, however, is in their prescriptions for how to address the incidents of people getting placed out of county.

Breslin said that he believes that what is needed is dramatic reenvisioning of long-term care in the county. He has prepared a plan aimed at increasing the use of community-based services, which, he argued, would relax the need for nursing home beds and increase the number of people the county could serve.

Conners has called for an investigation at the county and state levels of the practice of placing New York state residents out of state, a practice he refers to as “trans-shipping.” But most important to Conners, the county needs to construct a new nursing home to replace the 35-year-old ACNH building.

Again, Conners pointed to the 2008 numbers. In 2008, the county was in the process of merging its two nursing homes. Admissions had been closed in 2007, and the average number of residents was 255.

Currently, adhering to Berger Commission recommendations, Albany County has state permission to build a 250-bed facility.

At Conners’ press conference, legislator Shawn Morse (D-Cohoes) said that the county needs to build the facility so that they never again have to hold a press conference decrying the practice of sending county residents out of state. Also present at the press conference was the county legislature’s chairman, Dan McCoy, also a supporter of the construction of a new nursing home. Yet when asked how replacing a 250-facility with another 250-bed facility would alleviate the current level of out-of-county placements, the newly appointed chairman answered only, “That’s a good question.”