Regional News in Review – June 2010

Perham facility blamed in death An assisted-living facility in Perham is blamed for giving an elderly resident only over-the-counter painkiller […]

Perham facility blamed in death

An assisted-living facility in Perham is blamed for giving an elderly resident only over-the-counter painkiller and delaying medical care after she suffered falls on consecutive days that preceded her death. The Thomas House in Perham was cited for negligence in a report by the state Health Department’s Office of Health Facilities Complaints. The report was released in late May.

Helen Boedigheimer, 87, suffered from late-stage dementia and was in declining health. She fell June 26 and 28, 2009. She was given Tylenol by facility staff after the second fall.  A visit to a doctor the next day revealed she had broken her arm. She was placed in hospice care and died July 1, 2009.

Thomas House owner and nurse, Lisa Nelson has defended Boedigheimer’s care in media interviews. She has decided not to appeal the DHS report. The report stated that the facility was negligent because no evaluation by a registered nurse occurred, treatment for Boedigheimer’s pain early on was lacking and family members weren’t notified of the falls in a timely manner.  One relative who came to the facility for a previously scheduled hospice admission meeting July 1 told DHS officials she “could not believe what she found” as Boedigheimer had a broken arm and forehead bump. The relative also told DHS officials she could tell that the elderly woman was dying.

Nelson told state officials she had trouble contacting the family member.

Nelson has operated Thomas House for eight years after her own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  [Source: Star Tribune] 

 

Overbilling issues debated

A Star Tribune newspaper investigation of personal care attendant firm billing practices has sparked debate in Minnesota’s disability community. The newspaper found more than 20 cases since last summer when the Department of Human Services (DHS) paid agencies in cases where employees claimed to have worked more than 24 hours a day. In one case a PCA who provided care for disabled or ill persons, claimed to have work 32 hours a day for three days in a row.

Other cases over the past year, records show, the department also failed to enforce new limits on the number of hours that caregivers are allowed to work,” the newspaper article stated. “Those caps were imposed to control costs and keep clients safe from overworked caregivers.”

A 2009 legislative audit found that some PCA agencies were overbilling or reporting too many hours worked by PCAs. The audit found that the program was “unacceptably vulnerable to fraud and abuse.” The state’s inability to catch obvious cases of overbilling is reviving questions about its capacity to guard against Medicaid fraud.

“There is no excuse for that,’’ said Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, chairwoman of the Legislative Audit Commission, told the Star Tribune.” I would have thought they would be on top of this because the [auditor’s] report caused quite a stir at the time.”

Allegations of fraud in personal care assistance have been common around the country. The program accounts for just 10 percent of the state’s total Medicaid spending, but consumes two-thirds of the time devoted to investigating questionable care by DHS, according to the January 2009 audit.

“I think we’re all in favor of oversight and strict auditing because the clients really need the service,” said Pamela Hoopes, legal director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center. “If there isn’t good oversight, then it places this really valuable and generally quite cost-effective service in jeopardy because it makes it a target for cuts.”  [Source: Star Tribune]

 

Apply for new absentee ballots

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reminded voters and civic groups that the absentee ballot application form has been updated for 2010 and is available. “The absentee ballot application has been updated for 2010 and is now available,” Ritchie said. “Using this form and completing it correctly will give election officials the information they need to process applications quickly.” The application incorporates legislative changes made this year that were promoted by the secretary of state and local election officials. Ritchie urged civic groups, who distribute these applications as part of their own outreach, to use the updated form and discard any older applications. This year’s primary is Aug. 10, earlier than in previous years. The general election is Nov. 2.

Recent legislation changed the application by requiring additional information from voters. For instance, voters must provide on their applications their dates of birth and ID numbers or indicate that they do not have a Minnesota driver’s license number, a Minnesota state ID number, or the last four digits of their Social Security Number. Voters must also sign an oath under penalty of perjury confirming that they personally completed their own applications and did so truthfully.

Absentee ballots become available beginning June 25 for the state primary and September 17 for the general election.

To download the absentee ballot application, visit the secretary of state’s Web site at: www.sos.state.mn.us, or contact your county auditor directly. A listing of county election officials is available at: https://minnesota.overseasvotefoundation.org/overseas/eod.htm  [Source: Secretary of State]

 

Help older Minnesotans stay home

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded grants totaling $1.6 million for three years to two Minnesota projects to help older adults stay in their own homes.

Recipients are Carondelet Village, St. Paul, a consortium of Presbyterian Homes and Services and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet; and a consortium that includes: White Community Hospital, Aurora; Pine County Medical Center, Sandstone; Virginia Regional Medical Center, Virginia; St. Michael’s Health and Rehabilitation Center, Virginia; and St. Raphael’s Health and Rehabilitation Center, Eveleth.

“The projects will increase the development and coordination of community-based services to fill in gaps identified in communities,” said Loren Colman, assistant commissioner, DHS Continuing Care Administration.

The 2008 Minnesota Legislature created the Community Consortium grant program to support up to three community projects that increase access to home and community-based services for people age 65 and older. The Carondolet Village project has care coordinators who target 100 to 300 seniors identified as having two or more chronic conditions that result in a disability. The project uses a variety of local community resources including Living at Home Block Nurse Programs, St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, senior meal providers, area clinics and pharmacies and others. Carondolet Village will also develop a campus that includes a nursing facility, assisted living and apartments.

The White Community Hospital project combines the members’ separate nursing facility operations into a new corporate entity.  Each community will continue to have nursing facility care and a care coordinator/navigator providing a range of services similar to the Carondolet Village project.  [Source: Minnesota DHS] 

 

Talent has no boundaries

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy unveiled the official theme for October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month: “Talent Has No Boundaries: Workforce Diversity Includes Workers With Disabilities.” The theme serves to inform the public that workers with disabilities represent a diverse and vibrant talent pool for hire.

Early announcement of the theme helps communities nationwide plan a series of events, some of which will continue throughout the year beginning in October, such as proclamations, public awareness programs and job fairs that showcase the skills and talents of workers with disabilities. This theme epitomizes Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis’ commitment to “good jobs for everyone.”

Public Law 176, enacted by the Congress in 1945, designated the first week in October each year as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” President Harry S. Truman designated the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities to carry out the Act. The Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy took over responsibility for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in 2001  [Source: U.S. Department of Labor]

 

Federal grants awarded

Elderly and disabled residents in St. Louis Park and Hopkins will be served with $465,000 in federal grants announced last month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Officials in each city may have felt as if they had won the lottery. And in a way they had as the grants are awarded by lottery.

HUD awarded $228,725 to the Hopkins Housing and Redevelopment Authority and $237,000 to the St. Louis Park Housing Authority. The cities can use the funds to hire or retain service coordinators who work with public housing residents. The coordinators connect residents with a myriad of other community-based services. The grants are from a HUD Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Program.

HUD awarded nearly $28 million in similar grants nationwide. Hopkins and St. Louis Park are the only Minnesota cities receiving the grants.

St. Louis Park will use its grant to fund its full-time service coordinator, who works with 100 to 130 elderly and disabled residents in the city’s public housing building.

In Hopkins, the grant will allow the city to restore its service coordinator to full-time status. The position had been cut to two days a week for lack of funding. With the grant, the 76 residents at Dow Towers will be able to get appointments and their needs met in a more timely fashion, she said.  [Source: Sun Newspapers, Star Tribune]

 

Administrator pleads guilty

The former administrator of the Greenwood Home in Greenbush has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $3,100 from disabled people in 2008.

Jane Halvorson, 32, Bemidji, has reached a plea agreement that calls for her to serve a month in jail and two years of supervised probation. Under the agreement, she also has to pay back the money she took and pay a $500 fine.

According to a criminal complaint, an employee at the Greenwood Home, which is run by Prairie Community Services, discovered discrepancies in the personal accounts of seven residents. Four of the residents lived at the Greenwood Home in Greenbush and three at the Crestwood Home in Roseau. The residents range in age from 39 to 58 and have disabilities that prevent them from living on their own.

PCS investigated the discrepancies and found that Halvorson, who was in charge of the accounts, had turned in receipts, claiming they were from purchases she made for residents. But the items on the receipts did not coincide with what the residents needed and what they had in their possession, the complaint says.

PCS reported its findings to authorities in September 2008. An investigator with the Roseau County Sheriff’s office reviewed the findings and concluded that Halvorson had embezzled money for personal use.

Halvorson is set to be sentenced June 14 on a felony charge of financially exploiting vulnerable adults. [Source: Grand Forks Herald]

 

Humphrey grandchild- Vicky Solomonson dies

Victoria Solomonson, granddaughter of the late U.S. Sen. and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, died last month. She was 49 and had Alzheimer’s disease.

Solomonson had Down syndrome. Her family refused to institutionalize her and her parents, Bruce and Nancy Solomonson, raised her with the help of other family members. “We refused to hide Vicky out of sight in the attic,” grandmother Muriel Humphrey told “This Week” magazine in 1968.

Her relationship with her prominent grandfather was a key factor in his championing of special needs program spending and equal protection under the law. She was named “Victoria” because she was born on Election Night 1960, and changed public policy before she turned 10. She lived in various Fraser residences and worked with Opportunity Partners. She grew up playing sports including swimming and horseback riding and loved to bowl.

She is survived by three sisters, niece and nephews, and many other family members and friends.   [Source: Minnesota Public Radio, www.legacy.com]

Double your impact - support quality journalism - give nonprofit, give now