New Jersey's real giants?

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
What a week for New Jersey. It started with the pro football team that has its roots there winning the Super Bowl, and it's going to end with a first-in-the-nation effort by the state's assisted living providers.

The "Advanced Standing" program will be unveiled Friday at Brandywine Senior Living in Princeton, NJ. Assisted living providers not only will be asking to risk getting blitzed and sacked, they're going to be paying for the privilege.

AL providers around the country will be interested in seeing how this one unfolds.

This is an interesting case of assisted living providers and the state regulators who oversee them coming together to bring more scrutiny — and praise — to the profession. Providers say good rapport between them and government officials has been a key to establishing the new program.

Although lawyers and policy experts are still smoothing out the details, here's basically how it will work: Provider volunteers for the program; Provider will be checked for compliance with regulations; provider also must attain quality benchmarks established by a peer review panel; provider's quality data will be compared against standards established by the National Center for Assisted Living. Provider will pay something in the neighborhood of $3,000 to take part.

The payoff? Successful providers will obtain a coveted "Advanced Standing" label. It will be displayed prominently by the Health Care Association of New Jersey, and, they hope, the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, as well.

It's called putting your head in the mouth of the tiger and hoping he smiles.

Long viewed as a progressive, innovative bunch, New Jersey's AL providers are lining up to take part in the first wave. Some 40 of HCANJ's 140 members have volunteered so far, according to Kathy Fiery, HCANJ's director of assisted living.

"I think we're crazy, but we're taking anyone who wants to do this," she explained Tuesday with a smile. Providers' fees will pay for a consultant to monitor them. This will supplant usual health department inspections. Afterward, the state will conduct random follow-up surveys to make sure honored communities stay on the straight and narrow. (Those who don't jump into the new program will be subject to regular state surveys; all facilities with complaints against them will be investigated, regardless.)

The department of health will maintain control over which facilities are allowed into the program and which ones receive the Advanced Standing label. Fiery hopes the program, which was just approved by the state, will be up and running some time this spring.

The sooner, the better. There's no discussion about stopping before the goal line for this bunch. "Full speed ahead!" is the mantra.

"Everybody's always looking for a competitive edge, but I really think this has to do with facilities wanting to show what they have and get credit for how well they're doing in their buildings, and how they're interested in quality," Fiery told me. "They really don't get credit for that, but they will with this."

Providers around the nation will be watching.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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