It couldn't wait another day.
"In the next decade, for the first time ever, more Minnesotans will be over the age of 65 than in our public schools," said state Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point. "This isn't just important; it's urgent."
The Minnesota Legislature passed a substantial package of elder and vulnerable adult care reforms late Sunday night that will require licensing for assisted living facilities, create a bill of rights for residents and allow cameras in residents' rooms to guard against abuse, among other measures. Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the bill, which was passed separately from catch-all budget bills.
"We've accomplished something big," said state Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, who led reform efforts in the House. "We got a lot of what we wanted for consumer advocates and families who have had bad experiences."
Lawmakers, advocates, industry officials and state regulators struck a deal last week to help ensure the legislation passed after last year's efforts fell short at the finish line.
"We had to compromise, but it's a reasonable, great step forward, so we're pleased with it," said Kristine Sundberg, board president of Elder Voice Family Advocates. "I am so totally impressed with Jen Schultz - she is one heck of a tireless advocate and legislator."
As part of budget negotiations, $49 million was set aside over the next four years to implement assisted living licensing and shore up resources for reporting and responding to abuse and neglect reports at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities through the Office of Health Facility Complaints and the Office of the Ombudsman of Long-Term Care.
Licensing is set to go online Aug. 1, 2021, when Minnesota will join every other state in requiring that level of oversight for assisted living facilities.
In addition to a broad bill of rights for assisted living residents, the legislation sets up a process to appeal termination of housing or services and protects residents against retaliation if they make reports of abuse.
Housley calls the bill "the most significant reform to state law for elder care in decades."
Reaching those solutions was not so easy.
"I can't tell you how many thousands of hours we spent over the last nine months or so negotiating with the industry and the Department of Health," Sundberg said.
All the measures were born of countless and often shocking examples of neglect, abuse and exploitation that led the diverse coalition of stakeholders who struck a deal last week to conclude that failing to pass the bill "would be catastrophic for thousands of vulnerable adults in Minnesota."
Elder abuse resources
• Call 911
• Call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 1-844-880-1574
• Call the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care at 651-431-2555
• Reach the Office of Health Facility Complaints at 651-201-4200