One of our favorite conferences to attend each year is the LeadingAge PA Fall Finance Conference. Held in the Lancaster area each autumn, this event brings together senior financial leaders from not-for-profit aging services providers across the Commonwealth. The conference is also well attended by vendor partners, including bankers, insurance agents, professional services firms, and more. For a regional event, it attracts some big names in the space and is an excellent resource for taking the pulse of the industry.
With the conference in our rearview mirror, we wanted to take a moment to share some of the highlights from the event, including the themes that really came to the forefront during the presentations.
- Yes, it’s still all about staffing.
When our team attends these events, they like to ask a simple question of attendees – what challenges are you facing? Repeatedly they heard the same answer… staffing! This problem is so ubiquitous that we eventually changed our query to “Other than staffing, what’s keeping you up at night?”
The reality is that the proposed new staffing ratios that are being considered by the Commonwealth would have a horrific and detrimental effect on providers ability to keep their lights on and beds open, especially when it comes to RNs. This isn’t just a Pennsylvania problem either. One presenter noted that in South Dakota there are nine counties that do not even have an RN residing in them. In Rhode Island, of the more than 6,600 people who are currently unemployed, only 5 hold a registered nurse’s license. This is not an issue of being unable to attract talent. Rather, the talent just simply doesn’t exist. Until this issue is resolved, everything else takes a back seat.
- Opioids and Aging Services
Opioid addiction is often thought of as a young person’s problem. It is commonly assumed that individuals with an opioid addiction have somehow brought the challenge on themselves. The reality is that many people have developed an opioid use disorder after being prescribed the medication legally, only to find themselves dependent on it due to ongoing symptoms or an altered physical state. Opioids were a common solution to the pains of aging, with many older adults encountering issues with addiction. Now, these persons are in search of an aging services community and finding it difficult to secure admittance because of their diagnosis.
A little over a month ago, PA Attorney General Michelle Henry issued a statement regarding skilled nursing facilities that have committed to admitting older adults with an opioid use disorder diagnosis. This comes on the heels of a complaint from a 76 year old man with Lupus who developed an addiction while in treatment. Following his discharge from a hospital, he found it very difficult to secure housing at an aging services provider due to his prescription for suboxone as a treatment measure. The result was 38 facilities issuing letters of voluntary compliance to ensure that future discrimination of this type does not occur. It should be noted that failure to accept a resident, based solely on an opioid use disorder diagnosis, would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), and Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices.
- Foreigners Fill the Frontline
One of the most interesting sessions of the event was provided by Presbyterian Senior Care Network, LeadingAge National, and Klasko Law. The presentation opened with an excellent overview of the current state of immigration by attorney Andrew Zeltner. The bottom line is that our immigration system is not working well and relying on individuals to obtain Green Cards is likely not a solution. Instead, the team at Presbyterian Senior Care Network shared their success with a vendor partner that has helped them onboard 10 registered nurses of foreign affiliation over the past three years. The structure and implementation of this program is a long-term solution for providers but could be beneficial for those willing to think outside of the box.
Additionally, the question-and-answer session following the presentation yielded an interesting discussion. Lancaster, PA is one of the largest areas for asylum seekers and refugee resettlement in the country. Providers are keen to engage with this population to help fill their front-line staffing needs. However, many of these individuals do not possess the basic life skills required to be successful employees. Alternately, these individuals may be highly educated but do not possess the right on-the-job skills to be promoted. Participants were eager to find a way to better engage with these potential workers to relieve pressure on their current frontline staff.
The 2023 Fall Finance Conference once again delivered with excellent content, great networking, and a focused program that provided real value to attendees. Thanks to LeadingAge PA for a fantastic event and we look forward to the 2024 Conference!