Elder Voice Family Advocates (“Elder Voice”) is working to assure quality care for elders and vulnerable adults who reside at a long-term care facilities. Additionally, we work to strengthen the protections such as prohibitions on retaliation, arbitrary terminations, and establishment of a victims maltreatment fund. This requires constant vigilance on the developments in the long-term care industry and the public policy threats and opportunities.

 
 
 
Threats to the Care and Safety Before the 2020 Legislature

Regular Legislative Session
The COVID-19 pandemic has created several threats to the care of persons living in long-term care facilities. These threats are from the significant deterioration of the care of the residents, the well-funded campaign of the industry to get blanket legal immunity during the pandemic and the push by the Department of Health to delay the assisted living licensure to August 2022.
 
Elder Voice successfully blocked both legislative proposals during the regular session. Both proposals would be very harmful to residents in long-term care facilities and their families. Disappointingly, we were the only advocacy organization that said NO to the delay of licensure and No to blanket legal immunity.  
 
Because so many Elder Voice folks contacted their legislators and the legislators on the key committees, the committee members quickly realized how strong our opposition was and decided to not push it through in the regular session.
 
 
Special Legislative Session
Both the blanket legal immunity legislation and the delay of assisted living licensure will likely be taken up in special session. Elder Voice is initiating our own legislation to not allow the delay of assisted living licensure and will proactively oppose any immunity effort.
 
Assisted Living Delay - We will continue to oppose the  delay in assisted living licensure as well as introduce legislation to enact protections regardless of a delay or not. Senator Scott Dibble is helping us with this legislation. The highlights of the protections and care standards we are pursuing include: 

  • Protections from terminations / non-renewals / cessation of services

  • Infection control plans required of all assisted living facilities, including minimum standards

  • Separation of those who are COVID-19 positive

  • Creation of a Task Force to focus on COVID-19 in all LTC settings with LTC care expertise including geriatric physician, infectious disease, residents, families and many others

  • Maltreatment investigations required – including surveys, OHFC investigations and Ombudsman investigations

  • Licensure for Assisted Living directors required

  • Retaliation measures – grant civic claims for retaliation

  • Residents' right to choose their own care provider

  • Cameras in the rooms with less restrictions provisions

  • I'm OK checks that are contactless

  • Maltreatment compensation fund expanded to include infection control, transparency to residents and manipulation of hospice, DNR/DNI/POLST process.

  • Increased pay for long term care workers

  • Staffing ratio standards to be created and include dementia care

 
Blanket Legal Immunity – Elder Voice will continue to oppose any form of immunity for the long-term care industry. This is the only remaining accountability measure that we have left since the families are not allowed in the facilities and the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care and the Office of Health Facilities Complaints are significantly reducing their oversight and investigation programs because of the pandemic. We are getting many reporting a significant decline in the care at many of the poorer facilities. These businesses have be understaffed for many years and many are now collapsing under the demands of pandemic.

 

Both of these threats do nothing but hurt the residents and we must let our legislators know that we are adamantly opposed to the delay of licensure and granting blanket immunity to the long-term care industry. 
 

Contacting Your Legislators

Go to the links found on the "Resources" page to the section titled Legislativeto find who you legislators are and their email and telephone numbers.

Elder Voice Family Advocates Accomplishments
 
Significant Elder Care Reform Legislation in 2019 

2019 was a watershed year for our elders and vulnerable adults living in assisted living facilities throughout the state of Minnesota. We are moving from being the only state that didn’t license assisted living facilities to finally being able to hold our heads higher, knowing that significant improvement in quality care and enforcement is now or soon to become law. 

It took the teamwork of a new and powerful coalition of advocates to get this accomplished. AARP, Legal Aid - Mid Minnesota and others were aggressively advocating and lobbying for this reform alongside of Elder Voice. It was a tough challenge but in the final hours of the legislative session it was passed and signed into law by Governor Walz on May 30, 2019. 

 

HF 90 (Representative Jennifer Schultz and Senator Karin Housley as chief authors) was passed in the Senate with no ‘nay’ votes. The House of Representatives, however, was primarily a party line vote with the Democratic majority party voting 73 yes and 45 Republicans voting no. The Senate vote was 64 Yea, 0 Nay
See how House members voted on this legislation (HF 90)

 

"Without Elder Voice Family Advocates' steadfast and tenacious advocacy,

we wouldn't have gotten the bill passed."  -Ron Elwood, Supervising Attorney, Legal Services Advocacy Project

Elder Voice advocated and supported most of the new provisions included in the new law.

Our advocacy required:

  • Conducting a study of the substantiated investigations and highlighting examples of representative neglect, abuse and exploitation. Go to this link for the full report. 

    • Held a press conference to announce the results of the study.

    • Distributed the reports to key legislators.

  • Invited by the Commissioner of Health to participate in the legislative negotiating session with the industry and the involved state agencies.

    • Spent several months in meetings held by the Commissioner to find common ground with the advocates and industry representatives.

    • Hundreds of hours were required debating and coming to agreement on specific language that was acceptable.

    • Final bill was drafted and agreed upon by all of the industry and advocacy groups. 

    • It was sent to the legislators for final action and was passed in both houses of the legislature.

  • Many media interviews with the newspapers and TV were done.

  • Elder Voice supporters talked to their legislators asking for their support and gave testimony at many legislative  committee hearings.

  • Capitol rallies were held.

We didn’t get everything that needs to be in place but we needed to compromise with industry and the Department of Health if we were going to get reforms in place. The final outcome was significant and has set a new course for the future operations of the industry and regulatory oversight. We will need to be very vigilant in ensuring strong enforcement of these laws and keep working for additional reforms.

2019 LEGISLATION PASSED

LICENSURE OF ASSISTED LIVING 

Minnesota was the only state that didn’t license assisted living facilities until licensure was passed in 2019:

  • Two tiers of licensing – assisted living and assisted living with memory care.

  • Establishes minimum standards for care, training, staffing and requires needs assessment prior to move-in.

  • Rulemaking is taking place 2019 – 2020.

  • Becomes effective August 1, 2021.

 

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS AND RIGHTS

Licensure of Assisted Living

  • Two tiers of licensing – assisted living and assisted living with memory care.

  • Establishes minimum standards of care, training and staffing.

  • Rulemaking taking place 2019 – 2020.

  • Becomes effective August 1, 2021.

 

Consumer Protections and Rights

  • Protections from:Arbitrary termination and retaliation.

  • Allows Elderly Waiver residents to continue living in the facility.

  • ‘I’m Ok’ checks must be clearly communicated.

  • Electronic monitoring clarified – effective 1/1/20.

  • Protection of elderly waiver residents.

 

Victims Fund Established

  • Compensates victims of maltreatment

  • effective now and until 2021when Assisted Living Licensure becomes effective.

 

Increased Funding for Regulatory Oversight

  • Supported significant funding increases for the Department of Health and 17 new staff for the Office of Ombudsman for Long Term Care.

2018

Appointment to the Governor's Elder Abuse Work Group and Introduction of Reform Legislation

Elder Voice was appointed to the Governor's Elder Abuse Work Group along with AARP, Legal Aid, Alzheimer's Association and Elder Justice Center. We developed significant reform legislation of the senior care industry in Minnesota. The bill was introduced in both the Senate and House but House leadership would not allow the bill to be heard and pursued a much weaker bill that we didn't support. 

 

Achieved Significant Media Coverage and Support 

Elder Voice Family Advocates received media coverage from the TV networks and the Star Tribune as well as the Pioneer Press. Elder Voice was frequently asked to comment on legislative matters throughout the session. Some of the coverage can be reviewed in 'News' section of this website.

Leveraging of OHFC Complaint and Investigation Data to Educate

Several members combed through the OHFC investigation data and collected it by legislative area. This data was delivered to key legislators so they were aware of the complaints and issues.in their areas. The TV media and Star Tribune covered this story extensively. 

We have also had community meetings in Rochester and St. Cloud where we reported on the number and type of investigations were conducted in those areas. Both the Rochester Post Bulletin and the St. Cloud Times covered the meetings and reported on the information provided.

Legislative Auditor Issues 'Scathing' Report on the OHFC

At the request of Elder Voice, the Minnesota Legislative Auditor completed its' audit of the OHFC and released the findings in March of 2018. Legislators shifted their focus from our reform legislation to the many failings of this Office. 

Elder Abuse Work Groups Established by the Department of Health

The Commissioner of the Department of Health initiated several staffing changes and began the updating of the technology capabilities of the Office. Additionally, the Commissioner began a series of elder abuse work groups to attempt to find areas of agreement and possible compromise on legislative solutions. Elder Voice and other advocacy groups, the industry, and state agency staff have been working since August of 2018. 

2017

OHFC Funding

During the 2017 legislative session, Elder Voice supported increased funding to the Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC) at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for additional staff and resources to investigate more maltreatment complaints.  With OHFC investigating less than 10% of family reports of maltreatment and less than 1% of provider self-reports, a significant infusion of funding is necessary.  Many Elder Voice members testified before the legislature in support of the increased funding, based on their own experiences with OHFC.  For example, concerns related to the OHFC process were expressed in the following areas:

  • Unclear and Difficult Intake Process for Complaints

  • Number of Complaints Not Investigated

  • Inadequate and Delayed Investigations

  • Lack of Communication to Family Members

  • Inadequate Plans of Correction and Assessment of Penalties

  • Lack of Transparency in Public Reporting of Investigations

  • Difficulty Navigating OHFC Website

  • Unfair Appeals Process for Families and Vulnerable Adults

Office of Legislative Auditor Report on OHFC  

Working with legislators and the public during the 2017 legislative session, Elder Voice members were successful in supporting an Office of Legislative Auditor (OLA) program evaluation of the Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC).  Along with supporting additional funding for OHFC, Elder Voice recognized the need for greater understanding and reform of process given the significant increase in the number of vulnerable adults as well as the increase in substantiated maltreatment.  Members enthusiastically supported the OLA evaluation, writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with key legislators asking them to vote for an OHFC evaluation over the 121 evaluation requests made.  Once OLA decided to evaluate OHFC, Elder Voice members then met individually as well as in a group with the OLA to share their insights into the process.  Members will continue to work with OLA through their reporting time of approximately January 2018, in the hopes that their review will strengthen the process, accountability and outcomes of the OHFC.

 

Collaborating with Partners

Elder Voice members have collaborated with other organizations on issues where common goals exist.  For example, Elder Voice worked alongside the Minnesota Elder Justice Center during the Electronic Monitoring Work Group to provide family member input on cameras in the long-term care setting; testified before the legislature with AARP in support of increased funding for OHFC; and continues to support and look for future collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association on care concerns for those with dementia.  Elder Voice will continue to collaborate in the future where appropriate.

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