OIG Report Reveals that CMS’s Ten-Year Effort to Stop Illegal Drugging of Nursing Home Residents Has Failed
On November 17, 2022, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) released a report documenting the failure of an over ten-year effort by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reduce the inappropriate use of psychotropic medications in nursing homes. CMS defines a psychotropic drug as any drug that affects brain activities associated with mental processes and behavior. The OIG report found that despite reducing the use of some inappropriate medications, nursing homes began to use other drugs to improperly sedate and restrain residents.
In 2011, CMS announced a “national partnership” to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes. The partnership was created in response to the widespread practice of nursing homes illegally using medications to sedate residents rather than providing other direct care-based interventions. This practice is often referred to as using “chemical restraints.” The partnership sought to work with federal and state agencies, providers, stakeholders, and others to reduce the use of these medications.
Over the years, CMS has touted the success of the partnership, noting a steady decline in the use of antipsychotics. However, the OIG report found that this reduction was smoke and mirrors. While antipsychotic use may have declined, the use of other psychotropic drugs, such as anticonvulsants and antidepressants, both of which carry an increased risk of death for older individuals and other severe side effects, increased.
These findings confirm what Consumer Voice and other advocates have known for years, nursing homes with insufficient staffing often rely on inappropriate medications to sedate residents rather than providing care.
Consumer Voice has long been concerned about the illegal use of medications to chemically restrain nursing home residents. Recently, Lori Smetanka, Executive Director of Consumer Voice, authored an article decrying the practice and noting the increase of antipsychotic use during the pandemic. The OIG report reveals that the current approach by CMS is not working. Despite claiming for years that it was partnering with stakeholders to decrease the use of antipsychotics and other psychotropic medications, nothing has changed.
#VaxUpAmerica Before the Holiday Season
Ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is working to "Vax Up America." As part of an effort to get families vaccinated ahead of the holidays, HHS is working with national and community-based organizations and others to give families information about COVID vaccines, host pop-up vaccination events, and distribute resources at venues like nursing homes, state fairs, and community health centers around the country.
Recent CDC data shows that 1 in 5 COVID-19-involved deaths happened in a long-term care facility. Getting the updated COVID vaccine (and encouraging others to do so) helps protect your loved ones when visiting a nursing home during the holidays.
Spread the word and participate in the #VaxUpAmerica #WeCanDoThis campaign with this toolkit.
Virtual Office Hour on Visitation During the Holidays November 30th
The National Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) is hosting a virtual open office hour the last Wednesday of each month at 2:00 pm ET for long-term care Ombudsmen representatives. The next call is Wednesday, November 30th. This is an opportunity to ask questions, share information, and have open conversations with your peers and NORC staff.
The focus of the November call will be visitation in nursing homes during the holidays. These Zoom calls do not include a structured presentation and are open to all State Ombudsmen and their program representatives. These calls will not be recorded and do not require registration. Use this link to join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85675114259
Join Us Virtually in December
It was great seeing so many advocates in Baltimore last week at the in-person Consumer Voice Conference! For those unable to join us in person, join us online for virtual conference programming December 8-9, 2022. New live sessions, as well as select recorded programs from the in-person conference will be available.
Check out the agenda for the virtual conference, and we'll "see" you online in just a couple of weeks!