MN Health: Backlog of elder mistreatment cases cleared

Published 8:09 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

MPR News Staff

MPR News/90.1 FM

Minnesota Health Department officials said Wednesday the agency is caught up on complaints tied to elder and vulnerable adult mistreatment.

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The announcement comes months after news of the department’s massive backlog brought a rebuke from the state legislative auditor and an apology from Gov. Mark Dayton.

State officials said they’d faced a backlog of some 2,321 reports awaiting initial review and 826 priority cases awaiting investigation as it struggled with nearly 400 reports coming into the state Office of Health Facility Complaints each week from elder care facilities around the state, swamping investigators’ ability to respond.

“Elimination of the backlog is an important milestone in our efforts to protect vulnerable Minnesotans,” state Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said in a statement. “Much work remains, including needed legislation that will put safeguards in place to make sure Minnesotans are treated with dignity as they grow older and can no longer care for themselves.”

The problems were detailed in stories by the Minneapolis Star Tribune chronicling abuses in the state’s elder care facilities.

In March, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles released report highly critical of Minnesota’s Office of Health Facilities Complaints, concluding that problems with the investigative structure and mistrust in management were to blame for an inadequate response to abuse allegations.

“The problems at OHFC are deep and pervasive and they have been there a long time,” Nobles told a Minnesota House committee reviewing the report. “They are rooted in poor management that was tolerated and ignored far too long.”

Lawmakers in both parties said they want to make changes to the state’s elder care system and industry but nothing came of it.

Republicans included some provisions in the broader budget during the last session; Democrats said the measures failed to include new licensure for assisted living facilities and or new legal options for family members to protect vulnerable adults.

The provisions were part of a budget bill that Dayton eventually vetoed.