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Residents for advocacy program honored by Department of Aging

By Staff | Nov 19, 2015

Susquehanna Health's Skilled Nursing Unit in Muncy was recently recognized for their advocacy for residents' rights during National Residents' Rights month when the PA Department of Aging paid a visit on October 28. Front row Ombudsman are (left to right): Tom Fox, Randy Hartzell, Lois Cain, Carol Long and Mary Tokarz. Back row left to right: Margaret Borijas, Ombudsman director from the Dept. of Aging; Michelle Koons, facilitator for Ombudsman; Teresa Osborne, Secretary of the Dept. of Aging; Anne Holladay, Director of the Skilled Nursing Unit; Fred Shrimp, STEP, Inc. director of Office of Aging; Steve Johnson, CEO & President of Susquehanna Health; Charly Hall from Garth Everett's office; and Ron Reynolds, President of Muncy Valley Hospital.

MUNCY – During national Residents’ Rights Month, residents were recognized with gusto when representatives from the Department of Aging came to Susquehanna Health’s Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. On October 28, 2015, several people and officials were in attendance when Teresa Osborne, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging came to offer support for Muncy’s long term care facility.

After a tour of the unit, Osborne acknowledged all residents with a proclamation stating that “care matters.” The importance of their rights matters significantly and Osborne was given a warm welcome by Steve Johnson, CEO and President of Susquehanna Health.

Johnson, who along with Director Anne Holladay declared their support for the PEER program, (Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents) that will advocate the rights of everyone who resides at the skilled nursing unit. Johnson said, “This is our full recovery program. Our effort is to serve you by improving the health of every person.”

The rights of patients and residents are considered a core value leading with hearts and hands. As a partnership and a declaration that “Care Matters” the PEER advocacy program emphasizes the right to dignity, care and respect. “We want every resident’s voice to be heard,” said Osborne. “We’re a voice for the voiceless.”

With an access of volunteers the PEER program is a voice to assist others and make improvements. Serving on this board are residents, Lois Cain, Mary Tokarz, Randy Hartzell, Carol Long and Tom Fox. These expert residents are empowered and trained in the program to address various issues and receive complaints from other residents. They attend resident council meetings and have become the “trusted souls” to their resident fellowship. Osborne said she has met with 60 PEER programs so far from 7 different counties and heard remarkable stories from men and women who have done remarkable things.

The program is facilitated through STEP, Inc. on behalf of the Dept. of Aging to protect the rights of older persons receiving long term care services. “They receive, investigate, and resolve complaints,” said Dan Smedley, Administrative Officer from the PA Department of Aging.

Fred Shrimp, director of STEP’s Office of Aging said he was thrilled with the changes made in nursing home care over the past 40 years. Michelle Koons who runs the PEER program thanked those for her inspiration and direction. “We have 14 meetings a month with 14 peer groups in Lycoming and Clinton Counties,” Koons said. Their training consists of five 2 hour sessions each.

The Ombudsman program is funded through Title VII under long term care and was introduced in 1972. It exists in all states under the authorization of the Older Americans Act.