The nursing home debacle

The nursing home debacle

Nursing homes in Louisiana are required to file detailed emergency evacuation plans with the state Department of Health and parish authorities, complete with voluminous information about how they plan to protect and care for their residents during a natural disaster or other emergency. As Julie O’Donoghue reports for the Illuminator, the state does not have to approve these plans, or test their feasibility. And when lawmakers began pressing the health department for details about their oversight roles, the agency’s top attorney elected to obfuscate. 

A lack of nursing home oversight may have contributed to the horrific scene of a nursing home evacuation to a warehouse in Independence following Hurricane Ida. Nursing home owner Bob Dean moved nearly 850 residents from seven of his facilities into a former pesticide warehouse he owns ahead of the storm in late August.

Blake Paterson from The Advocate reports that the health department official charged with overseeing the nursing home program was quietly jettisoned in recent days. 

Earlier this week, the health department removed Fernando Lopez-Evangelio as assistant secretary for the Office of Aging and Adult Services on its publicly available organizational chart. His interim replacement is Elizabeth Adkins. Details of Lopez-Evangelio’s separation remain unclear. A health department spokesperson said the agency doesn’t discuss personnel matters, and Lopez-Evangelio could not be reached for comment.

Health care workers have hit the wall
Health care workers all over our state have spent the pandemic dealing with the consequences of misinformation: patients who lie about close contacts after a Covid positive test and people harassing or attacking health care workers. Now, as public health officials from Ohio, Kansas and Louisiana told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, many workers on the front lines are leaving the field entirely. Laura Olson from the Louisiana Illuminator explains:.

[State public health officers] expressed frustration with grants that may last only a year or two, and that are narrowly tailored to specific diseases or health challenges at that moment. That system of funding makes it too difficult to retain talent within agencies that should be well-prepared to respond to a broad range of threats, they said. “You can never build for the future if your funding is limited to the priorities of yesterday’s appropriations,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer and medical director for Louisiana’s Department of Health.

D-SNAP applicants get extension
When Disaster-SNAP food assistance (also called D-SNAP) opened for Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Ida in late September, many people spent hours on hold as up 350 calls a second clogged the application lines. Now, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has extended the application period for those who weren’t able to complete a D-SNAP application on their assigned dates. The Associated Press has the details for people seeking disaster food assistance in Louisiana.

More than 109,000 disaster food stamp requests have been processed so far, with about 81,000 approved, according to the department. Applications for the program — formally known as the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or DSNAP — are being handled in phases, with people assigned specific days to submit their requests based on their home parish and the first letter of their last name. More details about the schedule and eligibility requirements are available online at or by texting LADSNAP to 898-211.

SNAP benefits get a boost
For years, SNAP (food stamp) benefit amount has been based on studies of household food preparation conducted in the late 1950s, and updated for inflation. But a lot has changed since I Love Lucy last aired new episodes, making the the “Thrifty Food Plan” — the basis for SNAP benefit calculations — overdue for an update. This year, however, the USDA revised the Thrifty Food Plan to reflect modern diets and purchasing patterns. As a result, SNAP benefits are increasing by 21%, a boost that goes into effect today. 

Tracy Roof, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond, writing in The Conversation, goes over the history of the Thrifty Food Plan and how this change will make it easier for families to use SNAP benefits to buy enough groceries to last through the end of the month.

Anti-poverty advocates have long argued that SNAP benefits are too low. Even in a strong economy, more than 1 in 5 SNAP recipients would use up their benefits by the middle of the month, and 1 in 3 depleted them by the end of the third week. And 61% of SNAP recipients said the cost of healthy food prevented them from eating better, according to USDA research released in June 2021. Researchers estimate that the maximum benefit will now cover the cost of modest meals in 79% of counties, compared with only 4% of counties under the old formula. This update to national nutrition standards could pull 2.4 million SNAP recipients out of poverty, including more than 1 million children, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, has estimated.

Number of the Day
$835 – The new maximum SNAP benefit amount for a family of four, taking effect Oct. 1. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)