Thursday, June 30, 2016

OCR Releases Resources for Proper MDS Use

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued new guidance to assist long term care facilities in complying with their civil rights responsibilities and obligations under regulations by the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The regulations require Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified facilities to ensure their residents receive services in an integrated setting.

OCR’s announcement states that in order to assess placement needs among residents, long term care facilities will routinely administer the Minimum Data Set (MDS) for all residents according to CMS regulation. Section Q of the MDS is designed to assess residents’ interests in returning to the community and to help staff identify and assist residents in exploring those opportunities with the support of Local Contact Agencies and other community-based organizations. As such, Section Q also assists the state in meeting its non-discrimination requirements.

Through analysis of MDS data and collecting information from a large sample of facilities, OCR found many long term care facilities are misinterpreting the requirements of the MDS or inadequately administering the MDS because they are not referring residents who are interested in living in the community to appropriate referral sources.

This new guidance provides a series of recommendations for steps that long term care facilities can take to ensure the MDS is properly used to facilitate compliance with Section 504 and to avoid discriminatory practices towards residents. These steps include:
  • Establish strong relationships with the Local Contact Agency, a local community organization responsible for providing counseling to nursing center residents on community support options; 
  • Properly administer Section Q of the MDS “to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to learn about home and community based services and have an opportunity to receive long term care in the least restrictive setting possible;”
  • Update facility policies and procedures to comply with OCR guidance and provide periodic training to all staff involved in the MDS assessment on Section Q; and 
  • Review available resources on administration of the MDS. 

 To learn more, visit the HHS Office of Civil Rights and review the guidance document. 

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