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Disclosures, fire safety requirements and internal systems requirements are the main challenges confronting Minnesota assisted living providers as they continue to work through implementing new industry licensing and rules. That’s according to an Oct. 11 Minnesota Department of Health survey report of violations. 

Bobbie Guidry, LeadingAge Minnesota vice president of assisted living and housing, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the new licensing came at an “especially challenging time” as operators were dealing with the pandemic and staffing shortages.

Despite that, she said, most providers embraced the changes, although the degree to which they have successfully integrated all new policies and procedures varies from provider to provider.

“Minnesota has a history of aging in place. In the past, that meant a different set of regulatory responsibility for those residents that do not need services,” Guidry said. “Providers are working hard to refine operations to acknowledge that every resident is defined as an assisted living resident and subject to applicable areas of the statute and rules.”

The state is conducting its first survey of its 1,973 licensed assisted living communities to ensure compliance with the new requirements, which took effect Aug. 1. Under legislation passed in 2019, the state now has two new types of assisted living licenses — assisted living, and assisted living with dementia care. The new licenses replace the comprehensive home care license and housing with services registration. Separate licensing exists for assisted living directors. Minnesota was the last state to license assisted living.

Initial surveys, Guidry said, identified opportunities for improvement in the areas of hazard vulnerability assessments as well as emergency and disaster planning and hazard mitigation — requirements that changed significantly for operators under the new licensing. The surveys also highlighted the need for an increased focus on person-centered planning and infection control practices, she said.

On its website, LeadingAge Minnesota said the survey identified areas lacking or not entirely in place, providing reminders as providers continue to implement the new statute and rules. Areas cited in the initial survey include lack of availability of snacks; not having written staffing schedules and posted schedules; not posting policies and procedures, contracts and electronic monitoring notices; not conducting initial training on assisted living licensure; and emergency plans and fire safety issues.

Under the new licensing system, the MDH reported that 75% (1,008) of the state’s assisted living facilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area have 10 or fewer residents, whereas 224 have 11 to 100 residents and 103 have 101 or more residents. Of the remaining 636 communities located throughout the state, the largest capacity category was 11 to 30 residents.

Guidry said the state health department made available its survey tools for operators to use in self-audits, and the department started a newsletter, named ALL Together, to assist providers and consumers in understanding and continuing until the new law and rules were fully implemented.