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Minnesota Legislature

Senior safety improvements reported to House Long-Term Care Division

Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm presents an update on long-term care initiatives during the Feb. 17 meeting of the House Long-Term Care Division. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Minnesota continues to address concerns about senior safety, substantiating more investigations and closing cases faster, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday.

“We were falling behind and building up quite a backlog” before 2018, with cases taking an average of 187 days to close in 2017. In 2019, the average dropped to 116 days, she told the House Long-Term Care Division.

Staff are also seeing reports lodged with the Office of Health Facility Complaints more quickly, with 95 percent of complaints getting their first assessment within two days. This allows the most serious allegations – related to abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation – to be addressed with on-site investigations as soon as possible.

The severity of complaints ranges widely and, of the 21,453 reports filed in 2019, the majority were not indicative of maltreatment. The largest percentage of reports filed came from facilities reporting problems or potential problems, even if they were already in the process of being fixed, Malcolm said.

Some of these improvements can be attributed to an increase in staff, but also a series of operational and organizational changes based on a report released by the Office of the Legislative Auditor in 2018 and a partnership with the Department of Human Services, Malcolm said.

“A whole lot of this was good, solid … reengineering of our processes,” and constant improvements, she said.

These changes – supported by new funding authorized by the Legislature in 2019 – include improved data analysis and reporting, increased public engagement, and an internal reorganization of the Health Regulation Division intended to modernize operations.

Additional funds are also supporting the Department of Health in the implementation of Assisted Living licensure, which is expected to take effect Aug. 1, 2021.

Related consumer protections passed in 2019 are already in effect, Malcolm said.

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