NEEDED: Regulation of Senior Housing
The horrific end to my dad’s life came flaring back to me after learning about the travesty unfolding at Red Pine Estates, an independent living facility in Bemidji (“Bemidji residents still stuck in hotel,” July 15). My dad was in similar place in central Minnesota. In my absence, his body lay in his room for seven days before they finally checked on him. We were told that they would do a wellness check if he didn’t come for his noon meal. That didn’t happen, and they ignored the newspapers piling up outside of his room. They were cavalier to the fact that these were elders who used canes, walkers and wheelchairs, not 20-year-old people.
When will we finally regulate these independent senior housing facilities? They avoid the assisted living licensing requirements by calling themselves “independent living.” Additionally, the owner of Red Pine Estates, Schuett Companies, has a sweetheart deal. They rent these facilities as well as provide the care services so they can maximize profitability by avoiding assisted living building and care requirements. Yet they seem to have had no emergency preparedness plans, other than coercing the residents to sign a legal agreement to not hold the owner responsible.
In 2021, Minnesota was the last state to finally require assisted living facilities be licensed. This law protects residents by establishing requirements that would have addressed the structural issues of Red Pine Estates such as requirements for relocation and disaster planning, building design, life safety, emergency preparedness plans and much more.
We are hoping the Legislative Task Force on Aging will finally address this issue to better protect those who are older and disabled.
KRISTINE SUNDBERG, Shorewood The writer is executive director, Elder Voice Advocates and Elder Care IQ.
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The mental health crisis is not new to the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN), a coalition of over 40 organizations representing people with mental illnesses, family members, advocates, mental health professionals and providers (“UNH sees growing mental health crisis,” July 15). There was a crisis prior to COVID, it’s just become worse since then. Difficulty accessing care has also been due to narrow networks. Many studies have shown that people seeking mental health care have to go out of network at much higher rates than those seeking other health care treatment.
That’s why the MHLN advocated successfully this session to change the definition of network adequacy to include measures such as wait times and to require health plans to accept any willing provider during the next two years. While there are serious provider shortages — which were addressed this session as well — being able to access the ones that are here is critically important to those seeking care.
SUE ABDERHOLDEN, St. Paul The writer is executive director, NAMI Minnesota, and co-chair of the MHLN.
First published as a letter to the editor by the Star Tribune advocating for reasonable regulatory oversight of independent living: VIEW HERE