By ERIN BRYANT, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - Maryland still does not have a state registry of assisted living providers or a standardized training program in place for caregivers almost a year after recommendations to develop both were made to the Maryland General Assembly.
Members of the Assembly's Joint Committee on Health Care Delivery and Financing blamed the foot dragging on an advisory committee during a hearing on Tuesday.
Citing little measurable progress in crafting regulations for assisted living providers in Maryland, a frustrated Del. Adrienne A. Mandel, D-Montgomery, told members of the Personal Assistance Services Advisory Committee, "These recommendations were made in 2005 and may not go into effect until 2007 or 2008."
"That's a long time for the public to wait," said Mandel, the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Delivery and Financing.
The Personal Assistance Services Advisory Committee was created by state legislature a year ago, and is part of the Maryland Department of Disabilities. Its members are appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.
The advisory committee's role is to give recommendations on legislation to the General Assembly. Maryland was "behind the curve" last year according to the legislative committee's evaluation of assisted living services in Maryland.
An assisted living provider is defined in Maryland as a person who is paid to act as a trained caretaker for someone who is not biologically related.
During the General Assembly hearing on Tuesday, the advisory committee's co-chair Ellen Leiserson recommended that the Health Care Delivery Committee hire a consultant group to work on the registry of assisted living providers.
The suggestion drew fire from members of the committee who said they suspected more stalling. But Leiserson quickly assured the committee that "we're not recommending you hire a consultant to make more recommendations about putting together a registry."
The consultant group would work out the practical aspects of using computer technology to compile the registry, Leiserson said.
"This should have been a more expedited process," responded Mandel, a Montgomery County Democrat.
Mandel noted that most of the recommendations from the committee on Tuesday included the phrase "should be considered."
Mandel recommended that there should be less "considering" and more concrete action.
Assisted living care is not federally regulated but is for the most part left to the states.
The advisory committee recommended in January 2006 that the Maryland Department of Disabilities create a registry of personal care workers and craft standards for training personal care.
Currently, no interactive state-wide registry exists, although some registries do exist on the county level but are not shared.
Robert Davis, the co-chair of the Personal Assistance Advisory Committee, said that right now there is no way to seek out assisted living providers by area.
A registry would make it easier for consumers to find a local provider for the patient's needed amount of care.
The advisory committee had also previously recommended looking into the possibility of creating a referral system of individual providers.
In addition, the advisory committee drew attention to the need for a set of standards for training personal care workers.
Currently, there is no set curriculum or approved organizations to teach assisted living providers. "We can't keep dragging our feet," said health care committee member Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, D-Baltimore County.