Gov. Ted Lamont

Connecticut is launching a bipartisan working group to evaluate and address challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and to make recommendations on changes needed in assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities.

The Nursing Home and Assisted Living Oversight Working Group will be co-chaired by state Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven), the House chair of the Appropriations Committee, and another representative from the state executive branch.

“We’ve taken many steps to address the outbreak of COVID-19 within our long-term care facilities, but we must continue being proactive and take the appropriate steps to make improvements and ensure that the quality and safety of some of the most vulnerable residents in our state remains a top priority,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The working group will build on a report from Princeton, NJ-based Mathematica Policy Research issued last month, which looked at the overall effects of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities in Connecticut, as well as the state’s response. The group’s mission will be to make recommendations on proposed bills for the 2021 legislative session to address structural challenges in the operations and infrastructure of long-term care facilities and changes needed to meet the demands of any future pandemic.

The working group also will form subcommittees on infectious disease protocols and COVID-19 recovery facilities, staffing levels, infrastructure/capital improvement funding, and socialization, visitation and caregiver engagement.

Its members include an array of representatives from both the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as long-term care providers, organized labor and consumer advocates, including Connecticut Long-Term Care Ombudsman Mairead Painter. Private-sector members include Patrick Coll, M.D., medical director of Seabury Life Community and Pilgrim Manor; LeadingAge Connecticut President Mag Morelli; Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities President and CEO Matt Barrett; Connecticut Assisted Living Association President Chris Carter; and Sandra Arburr, recreation director for Athena Healthcare.

Connecticut Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford, M.D., MPH, said the pandemic exposed challenges faced by assisted living communities and nursing homes and their employees.

“Many of these challenges predated the pandemic, but it is crucial we learn the right lessons and apply that knowledge so we can better position nursing homes and assisted living facilities for the future,” she said. 

The working group will meet Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. EST. The public will be able to watch meetings via the Connecticut Network (CT-N).