I am writing this on the supposed final day of authority for the NCIA board as a regulatory body for assisted living managers and assisted living training for Arizona. Media has reported that this responsibility will be transferred to Arizona DHS. Yet, the AZ DHS Residential website, thus far, looks like business as usual with no updates or information. And the NCIA Board website looks as if nothing has changed since 2018. Additionally, this change must be done legislatively, so there’s that. I expect this transition to look like a monkey fu…. Ah, nevermind.
More change is coming. The shuffling of the deck chairs at the capitol aside, we have had passage of some significant bills in the last legislative session that have yet to be formally communicated by the department. And, in my opinion, there is the potential for more to come.
AARP is aggressively lobbying for a full audit of Arizona LTC. They have also recently released a survey that they claim shows bipartisan support for additional regulation for Arizona LTC providers. AARP has a powerful lobbying group, to tune of about 8 million dollars a year nationally with a stated 900,000 members in Arizona. And politicians know these folks vote as regularly as hitting the Sizzler on a Sunday afternoon. Who’s our liaison to AARP Arizona?
The gears often begin to turn, to ultimately drive regulations and impact our businesses, long before we as residential care operators become aware of it. Lobbyists lobby. Politicians set an agenda, deals are struck, and the sausage is made. What advocacy effort there is on our behalf is fragmented, reactionary, and often too late. It doesn’t help that residential assisted living is often sat at the kid’s table, if we get a seat at the table at all.
We have a couple of organizations that purport to wear the mantle for residential assisted living advocacy. These organizations are quick to leverage us, as providers, to bolster their legitimacy and more importantly get those sponsor dollars. I feel it’s a little disingenuous when I see “representing 1800 assisted living homes in Arizona” or “40,000+ members” nationally. But I want to be fair, these organizations do some good things for their members, particularly on marketing and education. But when it comes to advocacy to address the potential of legislative impact on how viable our businesses are in the future, there’s still a lot of work to do.
We, as residential assisted living operators, have some accountability also. Advocacy is not cheap or easy. It takes time, money and participation. And it’s not always successful. Consider taking a pause and asking, is the future of our businesses worth fighting for? And if so, are you willing to be in the fight in some way?
I’m not suggesting we start any new organizations. On the contrary, perhaps its time to engage and support the ones we have, create more diversity, and add some focus on issues that need attention. If there’s already people engaging on some of these issues, great! Then perhaps organizations should truly represent all of residential assisted living by; being proactive on these issues, encouraging participation, communicating the process, and soliciting feedback, for the entire residential assisted living community regardless of membership status.
All residential assisted living providers deserve clear and timely communication from AZ DHS, better support and resources from the department, consideration and respect when working with surveyors and other regulatory agency personnel, recourse when there are problems, and a seat at the table during discussions on legislative actions and proposed policy. We need someone in the room.