When this is actually a good thing: “I’m going to get our public officials involved”.

Politicians don’t have a very good reputation these days. Therefore when a great experience occurs, it’s all the more reason to share it with everyone. I hope my story will go a long way in restoring some faith in those much-maligned public servants. A Tale of 5 Buildings Over the last year and a half I’ve been the executive director of a new property comprised of 247 apartments that include Independent, Assisted and Memory care living space. In July 2013 the first of the IL buildings opened followed in succession by the next two independent buildings within a span of 6 months. That left the two remaining buildings that were to be licensed as Assisted Living and Memory Care-154 units left to come on-line.

Families and Frustrations

As with many projects, ours too suffered the consequences of delays. By the time we opened many of our depositors had been waiting well over a year. Once they were able to get in and settled much of the turmoil from all the waiting subsided. But as time wore on and we awaited the long and arduous task of getting those final two buildings licensed, things started to heat up again. After nearly 4 months of waiting for final approval from a near-perfect inspection, those folks who had loved ones needing care and assistance were getting MAD. My staff and I fielded phone calls, emails, visits to no avail. I was asked about the status of licensing daily, often multiple times. The Family

Member Manifesto

While talking with one of those frustrated family members she stated ” I’m going to get our public officials involved”. I had come from a previous property and had gone through a similar situation with delays on a newly renovated Memory neighborhood and we had gotten public officials involved with little success. So, after her proclamation of intended action, I wasn’t opposed but I wasn’t particularly hopeful either.

Ready, Set, Go!

Within a day I had a phone call and subsequent conversation from one of the staff from our State Senators office. She referenced that she had spoken with the family member and asked me for a recap of the previous several months events with regard to our licensing process. I emailed her a timeline, with the number of people waiting to move-in, and the impact it has had upon our depositors. Again, I was was slightly more optimistic, but not convinced that it would move things along a whole lot faster. We had our license 2 days later. Since our owner had also been going to the licensing office I still wasn’t convinced it was solely due to their intervention. Nevertheless I was thankful we could proceed with the opening. When I spoke with the staffer to thank her, she said ” when you are ready to license your final building, let me know if you have any problems and we’ll be glad to help”.

Round 2- The Rubber Meets the Road

Fast forward nearly 4 months; after 6 weeks of submission for the addition of those final units to our existing license, we remained in limbo. Building completed, physical plant signed off, and still no news on the final license approval. With over 40 people waiting to move in, we were once again in the same boat. As anyone who deals with their state licensing authority knows, it’s important to tread cautiously and circumspectly, ensuring you are complying with all regulations on your end, but to also be prepared to advocate for your position.  When another resident mentioned contacting our local public officials again, I agreed he should reach out to them, and then I also called to update them on our final pending building.

2 for 2 and Final Success

After contacting that same staffer, we again went through the timeline of events, discussed the numbers of people awaiting placements and I sent her another summary of events. Just after talking with her I got a request from licensing for a few items that I was able to revise quickly and send back to them. With much discussion, we decided to wait a few more days after my revisions were submitted to ensure ample time for approval. It didn’t come. So, after waiting those extra few days, they should moved ahead with their inquiry. We had the license 2 days later.

The Takeaway – Advocate, Educate, and ask for Help

In both instances when the state senators office got involved our license was expedited and obtained within days. I’ve been to Sacramento twice for Assisted Living advocacy days, invited public officials to large community events, and have been a support of advocacy at all levels as it relates to senior living. But this was the first time I had ever been party to a direct intervention on behalf a senior living community. And because I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing this direct involvement I’d like to leave you with a few exhortations:

  • Get to know your local officials. Invite them to events, send them updates, and seek opportunities for educating them about senior living
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In both instances the staff at our state Senators office were thrilled to help us. Give them the opportunity to serve the public good.
  • Have your community in order before getting them involved. Don’t use public officials as a trump card to get your community out of hot water. If it isn’t running well, fix those problems first before asking them to advocate on your behalf.

Finally, I’d love to hear about some of your some of experiences with public officials and senior living as well as ideas for keeping those relationships vital and relevant. I look forward to hearing from you. Leslie
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