Elder abuse prevention bill continues to advance, with improvements

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Advocates are working hard to respond to legislation addressing elder abuse backed by Senate Republicans that is moving through the committee process. This legislation includes some of the provisions included in bipartisan legislation containing the recommendations from the independent work group on elder abuse convened by AARP; however, it lacks several of the elements that create the real and systemic changes needed and that allow seniors to actually enforce their rights in a meaningful way.

The bill was heard late last week in the Health and Human Services Committee. The authors of the AARP work group legislation were successful in amending the bill to include additional protections for seniors who are terminated from services in assisted living facilities, sometimes without enough time to arrange for alternative care, as well as increasing incentives for policymakers to implement licensure for assisted living facilities as soon as possible.

Assisted living facilities are not currently licensed in Minnesota. This bill would convene a task force to discuss the possibility of licensure and provide recommendations to the Legislature for next year. But seniors can’t wait for another year of discussion. The amended version now prohibits facilities from operating without a license after a certain date and implements a rulemaking process in case the Legislature fails to act on licensure next year, strengthen the likelihood that the end result will be licensure. The bill passed the committee as amended and has been referred to the Finance Committee.

As Minnesota is the only state that does not require licensure, it shouldn’t be a matter of if licensure is needed, it should be a matter of how it happens and how quickly it can be implemented. The bill backed by Senate Republicans makes some important progress, but advocates are vowing to keep pushing to make the bill better. Now is not the time to settle when the health and safety of seniors requires bold, systemic changes. (SF 3437)