Hundreds of New York adult day care centers including 80 on Long Island operate without state or local government oversight, leaving disabled adults and seniors “at potential risk,” according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The report, which comes as local day care operators are reporting increased demand, calls for a statewide licensing or registration system, similar to requirements for child day care providers.
“Absent a universal licensing or registration requirement, no agency has a complete accounting of all the adult day service programs that are operating in the state,” DiNapoli said of programs that provide meals and social activities to seniors who typically are dealing with mobility issues.
DiNapoli said that “while the providers that have state contracts are being closely watched,” there is “a clear need for a more comprehensive system of regulation to ensure the well-being of many more vulnerable New Yorkers.” The report was released last month.
Several Long Island nonprofit adult day care providers said they support creation of a statewide licensing system to ensure all programs meet health and safety standards.
The officials noted that demand for the programs has increased as Long Island’s senior population has grown.
In 2010, Suffolk’s 60-and-older population numbered 285,071, up from 224,799 in 2000, according the U.S. Census Bureau. In Nassau, there were 283,610 residents older than 60 in 2010, up from 256,925 in 2000.
The state’s Office for the Aging has oversight over 17 adult day care centers statewide that receive state funding.
Counties and municipalities typically monitor centers that receive local government funding. But there are at least 500 adult day care programs statewide, including more than 80 in Nassau and Suffolk, that are unregulated because they are not publicly funded, said the report.
“As a result, their precise number, cost, quality of service and who is operating them is unknown,” DiNapoli said.
Nassau Human Services Commissioner Lisa Murphy said the county’s Office for the Aging would “welcome the regulations ... to ensure adequate services, facilities, safety reviews and appropriate background checks of personnel.”
Murphy said Nassau conducts annual reviews of four adult day care centers that receive county funding. Using a combination of county, state and federal funds, Nassau last year provided $755,000 for four adult day care programs in Herricks, Glen Cove, East Hills and Hewlett that serve some 416 adults, Murphy said.
Suffolk’s Director of the Office for the Aging, Holly Rhodes-Teague, said Suffolk conducts annual inspections of three county-funded centers in East Hampton, Southhampton and Huntington. The county did not immediately provide funding and enrollment figures for the programs.
Rhodes-Teague said that although she has not received complaints about adult day care programs operating in Suffolk, the office often provides guidance to seniors and families about what to look for when picking programs.
“You want to look at the staffing ratio, is the place inviting?” Rhodes-Teague said. “Ask about the training the staff has had ... sometimes you get a feel for a place just by visiting.”
Carol Waldman, executive director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, said she backs creation of a statewide licensing system so that unregulated centers abide by the same health and safety requirements as government funded programs.
Waldman said the center, which serves about 50 seniors through its adult day care program, adheres to state, county and city regulations requiring monthly meal plans to be approved by a county nutritionist and routine health department inspections.
“We’re not in any way against additional regulation if it supports enhancing the programs available to seniors,” Waldman said.
Jolene Boden, Long Island District Director for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, a nonprofit that runs two adult day care programs in Long Beach and Commack catering to 25 seniors who have dementia and cognitive impairments, said the agency supports increased oversight of the industry.
“These programs provide service to the frailest members of society,” Boden said. “Licensure is needed to ensure that the programs meet the regulations which are put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of the participants.”