Family-Run Council ("Family Council") Legislation

Federal and state laws recognize the importance of nursing home Family Councils – the independent, collective voice of families and friends of nursing home residents. These regulations give Family Councils the freedom to meet, discuss, and make recommendations to nursing home administration. Family Council members are committed to improving the quality of care and quality of life, not only for their loved ones, but for all residents in a nursing home.

 

Federal Family Council Law
MA Family Council Law - Summary
MA Family Council Law - Full Text

 

Federal Family Council Law

According to the 1987 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“OBRA ‘87”), nursing homes certified for Medicaid or Medicare must support the right of families to organize Family Councils as described below. See MA Family Council Law - Summary for comparison to state regulations.

 

Title 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) §483.15 Quality of Life
§483.15(c) Participation in resident and family groups:
1)  A resident has the right to organize and participate in resident groups in the facility;

2)  A resident’s family has the right to meet in the facility with the families of other residents in the facility;

3)  The facility must provide a resident or family group, if one exists, with private space;
4)  Staff or visitors may attend meetings at the group’s invitation;
5)  The facility must provide a designated staff person responsible for providing assistance and responding to written requests that result from group meetings;

6)  When a resident or family group exists, the facility must listen to the views and act upon the grievances and recommendations of residents and families concerning proposed policy and operational decisions affecting resident care and life in the facility.

 

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MA Family Council Law - Summary

Massachusetts is the third state in the nation to enact Family Council legislation. The law, effective July 1, 2004, expands upon federal legislation to further strengthen the ability of nursing home Family Councils to advocate for residents. The MA law incorporates the federal regulations and adds new Family Council rights and facility responsibilities, as well as penalties for non-compliance.
 
 

 

Family Council Rights
Incorporates Federal Law
New Rights
Right to meet in facility with other family members.
 
Rights of family members are extended to friends and representatives of nursing home residents.
Right to meet in private; staff or visitors attend at council’s invitation.
 
Right to accept help from an organization or individual outside of the facility.
 
Right to receive mail delivered to facility; unopened to designated contact.
 
Facility Responsibilities
Incorporates Federal Law
New Rights
Provide private meeting space.
 
Provide space at least monthly at mutually agreed upon hours.
 
Listen to views, and act upon grievances and recommendations of council.
 
Respond in writing to written requests or concerns within 5 business days.
 
Designate staff person to assist council and respond to written requests.
 
Upon admission of resident, inform designated representative of new resident of right to form family council.
 
 
Facility shall not willfully interfere with the formation, maintenance or promotion of family council.

         – Shall not discriminate or retaliate against family council member.

 
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Incorporates Federal Law
New Rights
 
A violation of this law will constitute a violation of resident rights. The Department of Public Health shall impose a civil penalty upon any person who violates this law and shall promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to implement this law.

 

 

 

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MA Family Council Law – Full Text

The full text of the Massachusetts Family Council Law (below) is also available on-line in Sec. 155 of H. 4850, Conference Report on the FY05 State Budget.
 

Please also refer to the Department of Public Health (“DPH”) Family Councils in Nursing Homes Circular Letter DHCQ 12-04-447 and Attachment A.  These documents advise nursing facilities of the requirements of the law. Compliance with the law will be determined by the DPH at the time of an annual survey or any other inspection or complaint investigation.

 

Massachusetts Family Council Law - Chapter 111, Section 72Z
 (a) No licensed skilled nursing facility or intermediate care facility may prohibit the formation of a family council and when requested by a member of the resident’s family or the resident’s representative, the family council shall be allowed to meet in a common meeting room of the facility at least once a month during the mutually agreed upon hours.
 
(b) For the purpose of this section “Family council” means a meeting of family members, friends or representatives of 2 or more residents to confer in private without facility staff.
 
 (c) The facility will inform family members upon the admission of a resident of their right to form a family council. The facility shall not deny a family council the opportunity to accept help from an organization or individual outside of the facility.
 
 (d) Facility policies on family councils shall in no way limit the rights of residents, family members, and family council members to meet independently with outside persons.
 
 (e) Intentionally omitted.
 
 (f) The facility shall not prevent or interfere with the family council receiving outside correspondence which is addressed to the council. Family council mail shall be delivered unopened to the governing body or contact person of the council.
 
 (g) Staff or visitors may attend family council meetings at the group’s invitation.
 
 (h) The facility shall provide a designated staff person who shall be responsible for providing assistance to the family council, if requested by the council, and responding to written requests that result from family council meetings.
 
 (i) The facility shall consider the views and act upon the grievances and recommendations of the family council concerning proposed policy and operational decisions affecting residents care and life at the facility.
 
 (j) The facility shall respond in writing to written requests or concerns of the family council within 5 working days.
 
 (k) When a family council exists during the admission process, the facility shall inform family members or representatives of new residents, who are identified on the admissions agreement, or in the resident’s records, of the existence of a family council. The notice shall include the time, place and date of meeting and the person to contact regarding involvement in the family council.
 
 (l) No facility shall willfully interfere with the formation, maintenance or promotion of family council. The willful interference with a family council shall include, but not be limited to, discrimination or retaliation in any way against an individual as a result of his/her participation in a family council or the willful scheduling of facility events in conflict with previously scheduled family council meetings.
 

 (m) A violation of this section will constitute a violation of resident rights. The Department of Public Health shall impose a civil penalty upon any person who violates this section and shall promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to implement this section.

 

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