By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In addition to the budget deal, one important set of reforms passed in the Minnesota legislature this year. It covers how assisted care facilities operate.

Minnesota nursing homes have been licensed for years, but Minnesota was the only state that didn’t license assisted living facilities.

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On the Senate floor, Sen. Karin Housley got personal as she talked about a law that will help 40,000 Minnesotans currently in assisted living.

“Sen. Pappas lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s,” Housley said.

The landmark legislation will license assisted living facilities by August of 2021.

“I just got all choked up because I saw our parents smiling down on us,” Housley said. “It’s going to make a huge difference.”

The bill actually provides two levels of licensing: one for assisted living and the other for facilities that provide dementia care.

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Amanda Vickstrom of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center says the bill is badly needed.

“Someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s — their needs are going to be higher,” Vicstrom said. “The assisted living licensing structure is really critical, and then some consumer protections, some retaliation protections that sort of level the playing field.”

The bill also allows families to place a hidden camera in an assisted living facility starting in January 2020.

“You can place a camera if you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring up to 14 days,” said Vickstrom.

After 14 days, a family will be required to reveal the camera to a state ombudsman, but they will be allowed to keep it in the room.

The legislature has provided $30 million for the state to set up the licensing system. Gov. Tim Walz says he will sign the law.

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To learn more about elder care resources, click here.

Esme Murphy