ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Governor Mark Dayton is taking action to help protect Minnesota seniors.

This comes after a wave of criticism against the state health department’s lag in addressing elder abuse claims. Governor Dayton introduced new proposals on Tuesday that will protect the health and safety of seniors and vulnerable adults.

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These measures were sparked after a serious backlog of investigating elder abuse surfaced within the Minnesota Department of Health. The department started 2018 with more than 3,000 reports of abuse and maltreatment that had yet to be looked into.

During this controversy, the former commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health stepped down. And the governor also gave the Minnesota Department of Human Services control over the agency responsible for investigating abuse in senior care homes.

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On Tuesday, Governor Dayton proposed strengthened criminal and civil penalties for abusers, and companies that employ them.

“These are people who call themselves care providers. They’re providing care to vulnerable people and some of the abuses that I’ve learned about are not only illegal, they are deeply immoral,” Dayton said.

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On Tuesday, we learned allegations of privately-owned residential care facilities for older and vulnerable adults have increased more than 50 percent in recent years. There were more than 24,000 complaints last year alone.

Kate Raddatz