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Elder abuse: State, Legislature must act quickly for safety

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
We have no doubt the Legislature and governor will act quickly.

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

With only 3 percent of 25,000 elder abuse allegations investigated on sight by the Minnesota Department of Health in 2016, we hope there is a sense of urgency to make a significant dent in the backlog now with a new commissioner and a detailed report to lead the way.

Victims and families deserve no less.

Gov. Mark Dayton has responded reasonably well to the bombshell revelations of the unchecked system of elder abuse revealed in a five-part Star Tribune series last fall. The series detailed a striking rise in elder abuse cases and a system unable to handle them to the point of trashing abuse complaints before they were even looked at, and keeping the investigations of abuse secret from families of victims.

On Jan. 29, a state work group convened by Dayton in November released its recommendations that called for “immediate and dramatic” action, including reforms in state law, administrative procedure and patient and victim rights. The group called for tougher prosecution of perpetrators, more oversight of assisted living facilities and allowing families to put cameras in the room of their loved ones to monitor care.

We have no doubt the Legislature and governor will act quickly to enact these reforms. Dayton also replaced Health Department head Ed Ehlinger with Jan Malcolm, a former health commissioner in the Ventura administration who has widespread respect among lawmakers, health care companies and policy experts.

We have no doubt Malcolm will work to solve these serious problems. She has vowed to clear up the backlog of cases by the end of the year.

But just as the working group, we believe some immediate steps need to be taken. Abuse allegation reports need to be shown to families immediately. We need to hire and spend whatever it takes to make sure every case is investigated within a couple of days.

As the Star Tribune series showed, incompetency in reporting and a bureaucratic nightmare at the Department of Health left many to suffer under abusive conditions.

We can’t move too fast to solve this problem and bring to justice abusers while protecting families and their elderly loved ones.

Republished with permission.

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