New Program Can Give N.J. Assisted Living Communities a Leg Up on Competition

The process of launching a new program that specially ranks certain New Jersey assisted living communities is in its final stages, as the state Department of Health and Senior Services goes through the 62 applications of participant hopefuls.

The Assisted Living Federation of America’s New Jersey affiliate, the Health Care Association of New Jersey, is partnering with the DOHSS to launch an “Advanced Standing” program for its state assisted living communities to award participants who go “above and beyond” regulatory requirements.

It’s a cooperative partnership with HHS, says Kathy Fiery, director of the Assisted Living division at HCANJ, in that the department will continue to conduct its surveys on communities in New Jersey that don’t participate in the program.

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The ones that do participate, though, will work through HCANJ’s foundation, which will contract with a consultant who will go out to communities and ensure that they’re meeting all regulatory requirements. They will still be required to take part in the National Council of Assisted Living quality performance survey, and if they meet certain benchmarks above the state’s standard requirements, then they will be considered to have “advanced standing.”

“It’s the Department [of HHS] that’s giving them additional distinction for participating in the program,” says Fiery.

For example, one of the peer review qualifications for a community to have Advanced Standing is having family counsel. “That would be something that’s above and beyond– it’s not required in regulations, but ALFA has determined it’s a quality benchmark,” she says.

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Basically, the program is like extra credit, Fiery says. “Communities in New Jersey have always be interested in quality, and our providers have always wanted to prove that they’re doing a great job. This is one way for them to get some recognition for the things they’re doing in their buildings.”

Communities who qualify for and earn Advanced Standing will be able to advertise to this effect, and they’ll also get a spot on HCANJ’s website. Additionally, the state’s HHS have indicated they’ll also list which communities are participating in the voluntary program.

There are about 217 assisted living communities in New Jersey, about 140 of which are ALFA members. The HCANJ received 62 applications to participate in the program, all of which were sent to the DOHSS for processing. To date, 23 have been approved, and one has been denied.

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While there will probably be a few more denials, Fiery says she thinks the majority will be approved, and the Department has been timely so far in processing the applications.

The next step is for the HCANJ to visit approved communities and conduct a compliance visit.

“We’re working on an electronic tool to determine whether the building is in compliance with all the regulations and determine if there are areas they need to fix,” Fiery says. 

At this point, the state ALFA chapter has “given birth to [the Advanced Standing program], but we haven’t yet left the hospital,” Fiery says, as the compliance tool gets finalized and the trade group figures out how many communities will participate in the program. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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