LSAP Plays Central Role in Crafting Landmark Law to Protect Older and Vulnerable Adults

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After nearly two years of tireless work and advocacy, the Legal Services Advocacy Project (LSAP), along with other seniors’ advocates, state agencies, and assisted living providers, crafted landmark legislation that was enacted into law during the 2019 session.  It puts in place strong consumer protections against arbitrary discharges of, and retaliation against, older and vulnerable adults living in assisted living facilities.  It provides for appeals of discharges, and requires extensive planning to ensure necessary moves are conducted seamlessly and residents are transferred to safe and appropriate locations.  It dramatically expands public oversight of the state’s senior care industry by requiring that, beginning in August 2021, Minnesota’s assisted-living facilities must be licensed, as nursing homes currently are. 

"Minnesota is the only state that does not license assisted-living facilities," said Ron Elwood, supervising attorney of the Legal Services Advocacy Project, one of the leaders of a coalition of consumer groups that worked on the 168-page bill. 

The state Department of Health will now engage in an expedited rulemaking process that will add additional regulatory detail to the new comprehensive statute. Read more in the Star Tribune.

Governor’s Elder Abuse Consumer Workgroup Issues Recommendations

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Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) was named by Governor Dayton as one of five members of the Elder Abuse Consumer Workgroup, a body he appointed in late November to offer recommendations (by January 26th, 2018) on how to address the egregious problems surfaced by a Star Tribune expose on elder abuse (see "Left to Suffer"). The Governor asked AARP to chair the group, which also consisted of the Alzheimer's Association - Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter, Elder Voice Family Advocates, and Elder Justice Center. 

Supervising attorneys Genevieve Gaboriault and Ron Elwood represented MMLA in the Consumer Workgroup and contributed to the report submitted to the Governor. The report's recommendations are aimed at improving the system of care, services, and protections for older and vulnerable adults, and are grouped into four areas:

  • Strengthening and expanding rights of older and vulnerable adults and their families
  • Enhancement of criminal and civil enforcement of rights
  • Development of a new licensure framework for assisted living and dementia care
  • Improving Department of Health licensing regulation, Office of Health Facilities Complaints enforcement and investigative process, and Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center reporting protocols.

On the conclusion of the group's work, Elwood noted, "The Workgroup is proud of the report and recommendations it has developed in a inordinately short period of time, and hopes the legislature will adopt as many of the recommendations as possible.  The situation is grim, and, as the group concludes, 'immediate and dramatic fixes' are necessary."

Read the full report is available here.  

SMRLS Staff Attorney Receives Outstanding Service Award from Minnesota Justice Foundation

Kathy Eveslage, Staff Attorney, SMRLS

Kathy Eveslage, Staff Attorney, SMRLS

November marked the Minnesota Justice Foundation's (MJF) Annual Awards Celebration at International Market Square in Minneapolis. Every year since 1991, MJF has honored the work of public interest attorneys, private pro bono attorneys, advocates, and law students whose commitment to service shines as a beacon of hope and embodies the very best of our profession.

The 2017 award winner for Outstanding Service by a Direct Legal Service Attorney is Kathy Eveslage, staff attorney with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), St. Paul. 

Kathy joined St. Cloud Area Legal Services in 1982 as a paralegal working on family and elder law issues. She moved to the Twin Cities and went to law school, all the while continuing to work at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services in St. Paul.

For the past 33 years at SMRLS, Kathy has specialized in handling cases for low-income and needy elderly people. She developed expertise handling appeals for elders who were denied personal care assistance, which allows them to stay in their homes. Kathy also has developed expertise in dealing with abusive debt collection practices. She has served her profession through her activities at the Minnesota State Bar Association, as a member of the Governing Council for 14 years.

Kathy loves to travel, and enjoys photography, reading and karaoke. She thanks all of her fellow legal aid colleagues from whom she has learned so much. She extends special thanks to Steve Wolf, Greg Marita, and Laura Orr.

This year's Advocate Award went to Bridget Gernander, Legal Services Grant program manager with the Minnesota Judicial Branch. Bridget began her career after law school as an Equal Justice Fellow working to expand MJF’s network of volunteer opportunities including its first ever volunteer spring break trips and pre-orientation projects.

In the words of her nominator “no single individual in the state of Minnesota has done more to encourage and expand services to the disadvantaged than Bridget. Because of her role on the legal services advisory committee, and her highly collaborative and humble nature, she is often out of the spotlight however, and does not seek the sort of recognition she deserves." Thanks to Bridget, Minnesota has a reputation as a cutting-edge state with a well-run, innovative, client-focused civil legal aid funding system.

MJF's other awards for outstanding service went to the following deserving individuals:

  • Private Practice Lawyer Award:  Rebecca Schiller, The Academy Law Group, P.A.
  • Law Student Award Winners: Lora Fike, Mitchell Hamline School of Law; Nicole Faas, University of Minnesota Law School; Melissa Bumanglag, University of St. Thomas School of Law.