Minnesota Freeman Office Building

As Minnesota prepares to implement a new assisted living licensure law this weekend, the majority of providers have transitioned and are ready to go by Sunday’s deadline, according to one senior living association.

Under legislation passed in 2019, the state will have two new types of assisted living licences beginning Aug. 1: assisted living, and assisted living with dementia care. The two licenses replace the comprehensive home care license and housing with services registration, which will be discontinued after July 31. Unlicensed communities will be prohibited from providing assisted living services after the Aug. 1 deadline.

Patti Cullen, president and CEO of CareProviders of Minnesota, which collaborated with the state’s health department on the new rules, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the vast majority of providers are “ready to go.”

“It was a lot of paperwork changes, but I don’t know that the actual service change was that significant,” Cullen said, adding that providers have to sign new resident contracts and a bill of rights, start new assessments and provide new disclosure systems. “We’ve been working since the law passed in 2019 to help folks understand what they need to do. We’re moving forward with the Aug. 1 deadline.”

LeadingAge Minnesota, which also was actively involved in the rulemaking process, previously told McKnight’s Senior Living that it had several significant concerns leading up to the comment period. President and CEO Gayle Kvenvold called the transition a “historic moment for senior living in Minnesota.” She said a change of this scope would have been a massive undertaking under any circumstance, but accomplishing rulemaking, processing nearly 2,500 applications, developing new policies and procedures, and preparing new survey protocols in the middle of a pandemic makes it “truly remarkable.”

“We have never waivered in our commitment to a smooth implementation of this new law, and have spent countless hours with stakeholder and state agency staff to address the myriad of implementation issues for an undertaking this large,” Kvenvold told McKnight’s Senior Living. “As the law takes effect, we will undoubtedly uncover some challenges that we will have to work through with our residents, families and the broader stakeholder community.

“Form the earliest days of our discussion about licensure, our goal was to provide clarity and transparency for consumers, and ensure consumer protection while maintaining a model of senior living that supports consumer choice and the opportunity to age in place.”

Minnesota reportedly was the last state to license assisted living settings.

The assisted living license applies to communities that solely provide assisted living services. The assisted living with dementia care license can apply to communities that provide assisted living and dementia care services; an assisted living community with dementia care also may provide memory care in a secured dementia care unit.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that 60,000 Minnesotans live in 1,800 commercial assisted living homes. The rules stem from the Elder Care and Vulnerable Adult Protection act of 2019 and are designed to create clarity for consumers and caregivers, and ensure high-quality housing and care for Minnesota’s seniors, according to the state health department. 

Assisted living providers will need to notify families and residents if they no longer will provide certain services, or if contracts are updated to meet license changes, such as those related to activities of daily living assistance.

Cullen said a very small percentage of providers did not move forward with the new licensing. Some providers that operate more of a social services model, serving homeless or chemical dependency, opted for a different route and are working with a state agency on a different license, she said. 

The timing of the new licensure law “could not have been worse,” Cullen said, as providers continue to battle a pandemic and the “worst workforce shortage in history” at the same time. But she gave kudos to the Minnesota Department of Health for “figuring out how to get everything lined up” to implement the law by Aug. 1, including developing the rules, distributing survey forms and training.