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The last state in the union: Minnesota assisted living licensing begins

Aug 02, 2021 05:38AM ● By Editor

Gov. Tim Walz signed sweeping reform legislation providing better protections for seniors. Photo: KARE 11 News

By Lauren Leamanczyk and Steve Eckert from KARE 11 News - August 1, 2021

For the first time in state history, all Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities are required to be licensed through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The change went into effect Aug. 1 and is the result of a sweeping overhaul of long-term care consumer protections signed into law in May of 2019 – in the wake of a series of investigationsof neglect and abuse.

According to MDH, 2,011 providers have applied for the license. The facilities service nearly 58,000 residents – mostly seniors – in Minnesota.

Minnesota was the last state in the nation to require such licensing.

There are hundreds of new policies related to the new licensing rules. Among the most important to families:

  • Assisted living facilities will be required to have a registered nurse assess every new resident to ensure they can meet the person’s medical needs. And they are required to re-assess them periodically.
  • Facilities will need to establish appropriate staffing levels and post their staffing numbers for each shift so families will know.
  • MDH will do more frequent inspections and surveys which will be publicly available.

Residents also have the right to appeal an eviction or termination of housing services.

“Monumental” change

Kris Sundberg of Elder Voice Family Advocates began fighting for the changes after her father died in an assisted living facility and no one found his body for a week.

“It’s hard to find the words to really describe how monumental getting this licensing is,” she told KARE 11.

Kris Sundberg of Elder Voice Family Advocates calls the licensing decision "monumental" for seniors.  Photo: Credit: KARE 11

KARE 11 has been covering abuse and neglect in long term care facilities since 2017, sharing stories of residents raped by caregiversverbally berated, and left unchecked on for days.

Sundberg says the new licensing structure won’t solve every problem but she’s optimistic the rules will increase transparency for families.

“There are some basic things that every consumer, every resident can expect regardless of where they choose to go and that’s critically important,” she said.

“Right thing to do”

Providers have managed to implement new policies while also contending with a worldwide COVID pandemic that acutely affected their residents.

Patti Cullen of Care Providers of Minnesota says her membership is ready and has been educating residents and families about the changes.

“Every one of us believe that it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Patti Cullen of Care Providers of Minnesota says new regulations require more transparency. Photo Credit: KARE 11

Cullen maintains most Assisted Living facilities in the state were already providing excellent care.

She said staffing remains an acute challenge. She also warned that the new licensing requirements have added additional expenses, so costs for some families may rise.

Still, she believes residents and their loved ones will notice a difference.

“It’s going to be much more transparent, easier to understand, the accountabilities are very clear,” she said.

Both Sundberg and Cullen praised the MDH for implementing licensing while managing the pandemic.

In a statement MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said, “We are thankful for the hard work of so many who have been involved in this transition process."

To check on your facility and see how far along they are with licensing follow this link:

To see the original report, follow this link to the KARE 11 News website.

Watch the KARE 11 News Report here

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