Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Ombudsperson? (Om-buds-person)
While there is no literal translation for the word “Ombudsperson,” the term “Ombudsman” came from Sweden nearly 200 years ago. In 1809, the Swedish Parliament appointed an Ombudsman to settle difficult problems that arose during the absence of the Swedish King who had been kidnapped for ransom. Ombudsman or Ombudsperson is defined as “a person who investigates complaints, reports findings, and mediates fair settlements . . .”
What is that correct way to say Ombudsperson?
There are many different ways to say or use the term. Some of the most common are:
What Does the Ombudsperson Do?
The Ombudsperson is a designated neutral person who listens, answers questions, receives and provides information, suggests referrals, and helps people to develop options to help resolve concerns or conflicts. The emphasis is on exploring ways for individuals and their families to help themselves, therefore the person/family retains control of his/her/their options and no solutions are imposed.
The Ombudsperson follows The Ombudsman Association (TOA) Code of Ethics and its Standards of Practice. These place an emphasis on the three bedrock principles of neutrality, confidentiality, and independence.
The Ombudsperson . . . .
- Listens to your questions, complaints, and/or concerns involving the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
- Explains how DDS policies and procedures affect the outcome of specific concerns.
- Provides options for resolving problems and concerns you have with DDS.
- Seeks fair and equitable solutions to problems for all concerned.
- Follows up on each request for assistance.
- Tries to answer your questions or helps you find the person who can.
- Remains impartial to all parties involved.
- Keeps information confidential unless you agree that information needs to be shared to best resolve problem. These instances will then require a signed HIPAA release form.
- Serves as an alternative communication channel.
- Advises different types of resolution within DDS policies and regulations that are available to you.
- Recommends changes in DDS policies and procedures when appropriate and in most instances with the input of the Council on Mental Retardation.
The Ombudsperson CANNOT . . . .
- Address grievances that are part of formal litigation or formal grievance procedures or investigations already underway.
- Give formal legal notice to the DDS regarding grievances, complaints, or concerns.
- Address concerns from employees of the DDS.
- Testify in formal or legal actions.
- Conduct formal investigations.
The Ombudsperson Does NOT . . . .
- Take sides.
- Breach confidentiality.
- Make policy or formal decisions.
- Take action without permission from the person contacting his/her office.
- Resolve non-DDS related issues.
What Should I Do First Before Contacting the Ombudsperson?
You may contact the Ombudsperson at any time about your concerns, but it is strongly recommended that you follow these steps first:
- Contact your Case Manager with your concern, always keep them apprised.
- If no resolution is reached, contact the Case Manager Supervisor.
- Complaints Involving Services, Funding or Placement:
Contact your DDS Case Manager first and explain the problem. If you are not satisfied with the resolution, you may go up the chain of command as follows:
- Case Management Supervisor
- Regional Director
If this also produces unsatisfactory results or you are uncertain about how to proceed, you may contact the Ombudsperson for assistance.
- Concerns involving Safety: If you suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred, it is important to report your concerns to the appropriate investigating agency. If you suspect Abuse or Neglect of an individual under the age of 18 has occurred, contact the Department of Children & Families (DCF) Hotline at (800) 842-2288.
- If you suspect abuse or neglect of an individual with an intellectual disability who is 18 to 59 years old inclusive has occurred, please contact the Abuse Investigation Division at DDS (formerly the Office of Protection and Advocacy Abuse Investigation Division) at 1-844-878-8923.
- If you suspect abuse or neglect of an individual aged 60 or over, contact the DSS hotline at 1-888-385-4225.
What Do Impartial and Informal Mean?
IMPARTIAL means that the Ombudsperson does not favor any particular side, position, or person in a dispute or misunderstanding. The Ombudsperson does not represent or advocate for contacts to his/her office -- they are not his/her clients. An Ombudsperson is an advocate for FAIR PROCESS.
INFORMAL means that your problems, issues or concerns will be discussed “off the record” and not through official or formal channels. This permits you to explore your concerns and options in privacy. For many problems, this informal approach is highly effective and leads to satisfying results for all concerned. However, if you decide that you prefer to use a different approach, all formal complaint or grievance procedures are still available to you.
Because using an Ombudsperson is an informal process, contacting the Ombuds Office does NOT constitute formal legal notice to the department and any time requirements for filing complaints remain in effect.