The Board on Aging and Long Term Care was created by the Legislature in 1981 (Act 20, laws of 1981). The Board and its associated programs exist to advise the Governor and Legislature on long-term care policy and to directly work to protect the interests of Wisconsin citizens aged 60 or over.
When it was created, the Board assumed the functions of the former Governorís Nursing Home Ombudsman Program which had been in existence for more than a decade. Services were quickly expanded to assist residents in group homes (CBRFs) and recipients of services funded by the Community Options Program (COP) in addition to nursing home residents. Over the years, the program has assumed responsibility for residents of Adult Family Homes and Family Care participants. Most recently, Ombudsmen's authority has been extended to tenants of Residential Care Apartment Complexes (RCACs). The original Long Term Care Ombudsman Program had only a handful of regional staff. Today, there are fifteen regional Ombudsmen, who are trained and managed by an Ombudsman Program Supervisor. The Regional Ombudsmen are complemented and supported by a Relocation Ombudsman Specialist and an Intake Specialist.
In 1984 the Board was asked to become the new home for an insurance counseling service called the Medigap Helpline. The program had previously been operated by the Center for Public Representation, a private, non-profit agency in Madison. Without endorsing or showing a preference for any particular insurer, the Medigap Helpline offers expert advice and counsel to consumers holding or seeking almost every type of insurance product that might be marketed to Medicare beneficiaries. In recent years, there have been both an explosion in the number of Medicare beneficiaries and a great many changes to the already very complex Medicare system. These factors have required a dramatic increase in the number of staff as well as an expansion in the counselors' abilities to work with the different forms of Medicare-related coverage. Currently, the program has a Program Supervisor and six full-time counselors and one Intake Specialist.
In 1994 the Volunteer Ombudsman Program (VOP) was established to supplement the services provided by the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The VOP currently operates in 26 counties (click to view area map), and consists more than a hundred of well trained Volunteer Ombudsmen, each of whom makes weekly visits to an assigned nursing home to talk with the residents and identify any problems that they are encountering. In addition, the program has a dedicated Volunteer Services Supervisor who directs the entire program and five highly skilled Volunteer Coordinators. Each Coordinator manages a region extendingover several counties. The VOP acts as the "eyes and ears" of the Ombudsman Program in skilled nursing facilities; empowering residents, listening to residents and being a voice for the residents we serve.