Regional News -- June 2021

Regional News -- June 2021

Laws change for assisted living

Seniors at assisted living

With Minnesota’s new assisted living licensure law set to take effect August 1, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) encourages families and residents at assisted living-type facilities to ask their current care providers about their plans and any impacts to the care provided beginning in August. Assisted living providers will also need to notify families and residents if they will no longer provide certain services, or if contracts are updated to meet license changes.

Approximately 60,000 Minnesotans live in 1,800 assisted living-type facilities that mostly serve seniors. Most of those who live in an assisted living-type facility, dementia care or housing with home care will not experience significant changes in their services due to the new licensing program. However, some residents may see changes by this August, and in some cases those changes may make it necessary for residents to find a new service provider or even a new place to live.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the best approach for residents and their families is to connect with their care providers as soon as possible to learn how the new licensure program may impact the providers’ services and plans going forward.

“It is an important time to discuss your care because providers are currently making decisions about the type of services they will be offering beginning August 1,” said Malcolm. “We are working with providers to make sure residents get all the information they need in a timely fashion, but it’s a good idea for residents and families to have these discussions with providers and ask questions now so they are prepared to manage any possible changes.”

Minnesotans who live in an assisted living-type facility should look for a notification from their provider in the coming weeks, or they should contact their provider to learn whether their provider intends to get the assisted living license needed to keep operating after August 1. Current assisted living-type providers must apply by June 1 to be eligible for Minnesota’s new assisted living license.

“The new licensure structure protects the foundation of assisted living in Minnesota, including consumer choice, independence and the ability to age in place while enhancing transparency and regulatory accountability. We encourage patience through this generational change, giving caregivers, regulators, families and residents time to adapt to and complete this significant transition,” said Gayle Kvenvold, president/CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota.

Any comprehensive home care provider not planning to provide home care services after August 1 must give a written notice by May 31 to every resident who receives services. Likewise, a housing with services provider who does not intend to continue to offer housing after Aug. 1 must notify tenants in writing by May 31.

“No one contemplated then that we would be crafting the rules for this new framework in the middle of a pandemic, which has made the transition more complex with less time to prepare,” said Patti Cullen, president/CEO, Care Providers of Minnesota. “Despite all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and a worse-than-ever workforce shortage, we remain fully committed to the successful implementation of the new assisted living rules in our communities.”

These changes could impact residents living in housing with home care services, which may affect a wide array of services.

The groundbreaking reform legislation passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz in 2019 is designed to improve the safety and quality of care in long-term care in Minnesota. There will be two types of assisted living licenses beginning August 1, Assisted Living License and Assisted Living License with Dementia Care

The two licenses replace the combined Comprehensive Home Care License and the Housing with Services registration, which will be discontinued after July 31.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is always available to support families as they consider any change in care for someone living with dementia,” said Sue Parriott, Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter CEO. “We understand that these transitions may be stressful, but we believe this new licensing system will provide a more stable and safe care environment for residents in all assisted living settings.”

The new assisted living reforms set higher expectations for providers and create more protections for people living in assisted living establishments. It will also create clear pathways for accountability and better services for residents of assisted living facilities.

“We want Minnesota families and residents to be aware of the positive changes coming related to the licensing of assisted living facilities,” states Kristine Sundberg, executive director of Elder Voice Family Advocates. “We now have a substantial improvement in safety and care standards and added protections on the way that will help keep our parents and spouses better protected from neglect and harm.”

For more information, please visit the Assisted Living Licensure webpage.

(Source: Minnesota Department of Health)

Bed shortage affects youth

Scores of Minnesota children and adolescents with mental health problems are suffering in hospital emergency rooms for days or even weeks because they have nowhere to go for more intensive care. Parents of children as young as 7 or 8 describe agonizing waits in emergency departments that are not equipped to treat people with serious mental illness and where prolonged stays can be traumatic. In some cases, even the emergency rooms are full, and children experiencing mental health crises are being consigned to stretchers or chairs in crowded ER hallways.

The practice of keeping psychiatric patients in emergency departments while they await hospital beds —known as “boarding” — has existed for decades, but hospital administrators and child psychologists say it has reached a crisis point amid rising levels of anxiety, depression and other stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many ER departments across the state are seeing a surge in mental health-related admissions among children, as disorders that were left untreated over the past year are now boiling over as youngsters return to school and attempt to re-establish routines and social connections. Mental Health Minnesota, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the number of children under age 18 screened for mental health problems soared last year to 7,882 screenings, up from 1,664 in 2019.

“The water was already high, and now the dam has broken,” said Kristen Wiik, manager for neuropsychology and the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at Hennepin Healthcare.

At Minneapolis-based M Health Fairview, one of the state’s largest health systems with 10 hospitals, emergency room visits by children and adolescents in mental health crisis have surged 18% this year over pre-COVID levels.

On any given day, as many as 20 children are boarding in its hospital emergency departments or pediatric units while awaiting inpatient beds where they can receive more intensive care. Most children are discharged within days, though one child on the autism spectrum recently had to wait eight months for a bed at a residential treatment center, officials said.

Hospital systems like M Health Fairview have begun deploying multidisciplinary teams of psychologists, counselors and social workers to help children boarded in ERs, but demand can be overwhelming for emergency departments already stretched thin by COVID-19 patients.

Parents and mental health advocates have expressed concern that prolonged boarding in hospital ERs could have lasting consequences by discouraging young people with mental illnesses from seeking treatment.

(Source: Star Tribune)

Disability claim is settled

Lake States Lumber Inc. of Duluth will pay $100,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The suit alleged that an employee of the Duluth company took a medical leave to undergo heart surgery, and when he returned to work with no work restrictions, he was reassigned to a different job, which he held for just nine days before his dismissal. The EEOC contends the company’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Lake States Lumber provides not only financial relief, but also will be bound by a two-year consent decree that stipulates that in the future the company will not require employees to be released without restrictions or to be identified as 100 percent healthy in order to return to work. Lake States managers and personnel also will be required to undergo ADA training, and the company is required to report any disability discrimination complaints that might arise to directly the EEOC during the two-year term of the decree.

“It is an unfortunate reality that even when an employee who has been on disability leave is able to return to work without any restriction at all, many employers continue to regard that employee as unable to work in the same capacity as prior to the leave,” said Gregory Gochanour, an EEOC regional attorney, in a statement. “The consent decree sends the message that no type of disability discrimination, including this variety, will be tolerated in the workplace.”

(Source: Duluth News-Tribune)

Employment programs announced

Two programs to help people with disabilities remain in= the workforce have been announced.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) was awarded a Retaining Employment and Talentz After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Minnesota was one of five states to receive such a grant.

The four-year $19,518,509 grant supports MN RETAIN, which helps employees stay at or return to work more rapidly when an injury or illness impacts their ability to work. Its goal is to help keep 3,200 Minnesotans connected to the workforce over the next four years.

“Now more than ever, we need to do all we can to keep Minnesotans connected to the labor force, and MN RETAIN does just that,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove.

The program connects ill or injured workers and their employers with case managers. MN RETAIN can offer assistance for up to six months, helping employees navigate complex systems, find accommodations for disabilities as needed, and return safely to work.

MN RETAIN is a collaboration between DEED, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Governor’s Workforce Development Workforce Board, Workforce Development, Inc. and Mayo Clinic.

Another help for people with disabilities seeking employment is for people with mental health conditions. The U.S. Department of Labor announced seven states, including Minnesota, have been chosen to participate in its new initiative to help improve employment outcomes.

The Labor Department’s Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment initiative provides Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma and Virginia with tailored and targeted assistance, such as expertise to help create and implement a plan that encompasses multiple systems like mental and behavioral health, Medicaid, vocal rehabilitation, workforce and education.

(Source: Minnesota DEED, U.S. Department of Labor)

Stolen prosthetic is recovered

When Parker Hanson’s vehicle was broken into and his prospective arm was stolen, he thought it was gone forever.

Hanson was once a Hawley prep standout, cranking out homers in high school and on the American Legion ball field, all without a left hand. He’s now playing at Augustana University in Sioux Falls.

“My roommate came in, woke me up before class, and he goes, ‘Our cars were broken into,’’” Hanson said.

Someone rifled through his car and stole his prosthetic arm from a backpack. He thought it was gone forever until workers at a Sioux Falls recycling plant spotted it in a huge pile of trash. Fundraising was launched to pay for a replacement. And then there was a surprise.

“I woke up and got a text, and I was shaking from excitement,” Hanson said. “It was pretty cool. Seeing what my arm went through was pretty funny. The guy who found it was pretty excited. (He) had a big smile on his face and shook my hand,” he said.

They called Hanson down to the recycling center and, in an emotional moment, presented the stolen prosthetic arm to him.

Since news broke of the stolen prosthetic, Shriner’s Hospital announced it was getting Hanson a new prosthetic arm. The money Hanson raised is going back to Shriner’s and another nonprofit for children with disabilities.

Hanson also reached out to some of those kids who want to play catch with him. “I want to make someone’s day better. If I can make one person’s day better every day, that is a good day for me,” Hanson said.

(Source; Associated Press)

Organization has new name

A southern Minnesota organization dedicated to helping empower people with disabilities and their families has branched out on its own under a new name.

What was formerly known as The Arc of Freeborn County is now known as LIFE Center of Freeborn County. LIFE stands for learning, inclusion, fun and empowerment.

Jessica Walters, program director for the organization, said about a year ago, the state chapter of Arc Minnesota changed the way it was operating, requiring that all local donations be channeled through the state office. Programming would also change.

Walters said the state chapter would have had control over how the Freeborn County organization spent its money and conducted its programs. Board and members voted against joining the state chapter and to disaffiliate as a whole from Arc about a year ago.

The Arc has had a presence in Freeborn County for 64 years, she said.

The Freeborn County group voted earlier this year to rebrand and the new organization was formed. Its mission states, “LIFE Center welcomes, values, respects and supports people of all abilities. Our mission is to advocate passionately while compassionately delivering programs that expand opportunities, empower people and enrich lives while having fun.”

Becky Rognes, interim director for LIFE Center, said all funding will now be able to stay locally. For the near future all of the programming will stay the same. Leaders are hoping to modernize some of the programs and bring in more younger members, through events such as family fun days and other activities. Walters said many people do not realize the facility serves all ages.

The renamed organization hosted an open house this spring.

(Source: Albert Lea Tribune)

Social workers join with police

A new program will embed mental health professionals within law enforcement agencies in Duluth and Carlton County.

The Human Development Center, a nonprofit that provides a variety of mental health services for adults and youth across the region, will supply the services of two full-time staff members, said CEO Ben Hatfield. A psychiatric nurse will join the Duluth Police Department’s existing Mental Health Unit, while a therapist will work with agencies throughout Carlton County.

“We want to try to do early intervention, avoid hospitalizations, avoid unnecessary incarceration and get people connected to services early,” Hatfield said. “Across the nation, we’re seeing police reform and the need for mental health care. It’s a great idea to try to address concerns and get people to the professionals before a crisis starts.”

The program is the latest in a series of efforts by local police to improve their response and outreach to people experiencing mental health issues, but it’s a first-of-its-kind partnership with the behavioral health center. Staff will be employed by HDC, but functionally work inside the departments, responding alongside officers and providing follow-up services to clients.

Duluth for several years has operated its Mental Health Unit, which currently includes two sworn officers and two embedded social workers funded by St. Louis County and the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment. But Carlton County has not previously had the same resources available.

“We have reached out to Duluth to see what their position entails, but it’s going to look different here,” Sheriff Kelly Lake said. “We don’t have the population that Duluth has, so maybe we can respond to a wider variety of calls that don’t necessarily involve an immediate crisis. We’re hoping to build it to fit the needs of Carlton County. It’s going to be a work in progress with a lot of tweaking as we go and we figure out what fits for us and what is most beneficial to our residents.”

(Source: Duluth News-Tribune)