(a) Each area agency on aging funded by the department shall select at least one community ombudsman in each planning and service area established according to regulations issued pursuant to the Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended. The community ombudsman shall be an employee or contractual employee of the area agency on aging and shall certify to having no association with any health care facility or provider for reward or profit.
(b) The duties of each community ombudsman shall be as follows:
(1) To receive, investigate, respond to, and attempt informally to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of recipients;
(2) To report immediately instances of fraud, abuse, neglect, or exploitation to the department of pensions and security for investigation and follow-up pursuant to Chapter 9 of Title 38, the Adult Protective Services Act of 1976, and Article 1 of Chapter 16 of Title 26, the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Act;
(3) To serve as a third-party mechanism for protecting the health, safety, welfare, and human rights of recipients;
(4) To report immediately any complaint that cannot be resolved informally to the State Ombudsman for appropriate action under Section 22-5A-6;
(5) To collect data about the number and kinds of complaints handled; and
(6) To report regularly to the State Ombudsman about the data collected and activities of the community ombudsman program.
(c) A description of the operation of its community ombudsman program shall be included by each area agency on aging in its area plan, which is subject to the approval of the department.
(d) Each area agency on aging shall immediately notify the department of the selection of, and request the certification of, prospective community ombudsmen.
(e) The State Ombudsman shall arrange for the training of all prospective community ombudsmen selected by area agencies on aging. Such training shall include instructions in at least the following subjects as they relate to health care:
(1) The responsibilities, duties and authority of community ombudsmen;
(2) The laws and regulations governing the receipt, investigation, and resolution of complaints;
(3) The role of local, state and federal agencies that regulate health care facilities;
(4) The different kinds of health care facilities in Alabama and the services provided in each setting;
(5) The special needs of the elderly and of the physically and mentally handicapped;
(6) The role of the family, the sponsor, the legal representative, the physician, the church and other public and private agencies, and the community;
(7) How to work with health providers, medical professionals and staff;
(8) The laws and regulations governing Medicare, Medicaid, social security, supplemental security income, and the Veterans Administration; and
(9) The licensure requirements for administrators of hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies, etc., including familiarity with the actual information required to obtain the various licenses.
(f) Persons selected by area agencies on aging who shall have satisfactorily completed the training arranged by the State Ombudsman shall be certified as community ombudsmen by the department. The certification can be terminated at any time by the Department of Senior Services or appropriate area agency on aging:
(1) When the community ombudsman is no longer employed by the Department of Senior Services or area agency on aging;
(2) For cause.
(g) Each area's agency on aging advisory council shall appoint a subcommittee to advise it in the operation of its community ombudsman program. The number and qualifications of members of the advisory subcommittee shall be determined by the area agency on aging but shall contain adequate representation from the various types of health facilities covered under the Area Agency Community Ombudsman Plan.