Assisted living, memory care licensure efforts on hold in Minnesota

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Assisted living and memory care community operators in Minnesota have at least a temporary reprieve from efforts by the governor and some state legislators to license their facilities.

The 2018 legislative session ended without the adoption of two bills unveiled in March as part of a $14.9 million plan to address perceived elder abuse issues in residential care facilities and nursing homes in the state. Among other provisions, the proposed legislation would have required all assisted living communities, dementia units and executive directors to be licensed by Jan. 1, 2020.

Elder care-related provisions that made it into the legislature's omnibus supplemental budget bill were “inadequate,” said the Elder Abuse Consumer Coalition, a collection of groups representing older adults. One of its members organizations, Elder Voice Family Advocates, described the provisions as “weak” and “unacceptable.”

“Minnesota is the only state that does not license assisted living facilities, yet this bill does not provide a clear path to licensure,” Kris Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Family Advocates, said in a statement posted on the group's Facebook page.

The coalition called on Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, to veto the budget, which he did last week, citing “legislative gamesmanship.”

“Repeatedly over the past several months, I implored the legislature to send separate bills on Minnesotans' most urgent priorities,” including elder care reform, Dayton wrote in a May 23 letter to then-Senate President Michelle Fischbach, a Republican who became lieutenant governor May 25. “Yet instead of coming together to find shared solutions to these critical issues, you have deposited them into a 989-page budget bill, with 51 policy provisions, which I oppose,” he continued.

The omnibus supplemental budget bill, Dayton said, “fails to meet the expectations of a large number of lawmakers and of the coalition of nearly every consumer advocacy organization in the state working to stop elder abuse. ...In fact, advocacy groups believe changes made in this bill would actually make current law less protective.”

Some advocates for older adults said that the omnibus bill's requirement that a family member wishing to place a camera in a resident's room obtain consent from the resident in the presence of a community employee would have “created new barriers” for families, according to the Star Tribune.

State Sen. Karin Housley, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, however, said the electronic monitoring provision and others “represented a bipartisan compromise.” Other provisions in the omnibus bill, she said in a statement posted on the website of the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus, would have “strengthened resident protections, better prevented retaliation, prohibited deceptive marketing and enhanced provider accountability. Unfortunately, the next chance to act won't be until at least January.”

Regardless of the legislature's plans, operators shouldn't expect the issue to go away. Elder Voice Family Advocates plans to hold town hall meetings this summer.

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