The Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee and the Senate Human Services Finance and Policy Committee held a joint hearing on Wednesday to continue oversight of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC). The committees heard from ElderVoices, an advocacy group comprised of the families of elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans subjected to abuse and neglect at the hands of direct care providers, as well as AARP and the Long-Term Care Imperative.
“Today’s committee hearing was a positive step forward in addressing the broad, systemic changes that must be made at the state agencies to provide the sort of accountability and peace-of-mind elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans should expect from their government,” said Senator Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy committee. “I want to continue to make it abundantly clear that we have zero tolerance for the culture of dysfunction, intimidation, and neglect that has been on display by these state agencies in recent months. I am pleased the agencies are taking corrective action, but the legislature will continue to fulfill its oversight responsibility to ensure a permanent shift in the status quo.”
MDH Acting Commissioner Dan Pollock and DHS Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper also testified, addressing the significant backlog at the OHFC and providing the committee with an update on the safeguards being put in place by the state agencies to ensure prompt follow-up to the complaints. The commissioners were addressing the discovery made last year by the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, which found the OHFC was investigating a mere 1 percent of self-reported provider complaints and only 10 percent of maltreatment complaints. Since then, the committee has provided funding for the agency to hire additional investigators and held numerous stakeholder meetings focused on the agency’s improvement. The state health commissioner also resigned following the allegations.
“Over the course of the next several weeks, we will continue to work with stakeholders in crafting legislation to address these areas during the upcoming legislative session,” Senator Housley continued. “I want our elderly and vulnerable populations, and their families, to know my priority lies squarely in making sure they are cared for with the compassion, dignity, and respect they deserve.”
Senator Karin Housley is in her second term representing Senate District 39, which includes Stillwater, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, and other communities in Chisago and Washington counties. She serves as chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.