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Chris Serres

Reporter | Social Services
Phone: 612-673-4308

Chris Serres covers social services for the Star Tribune.

Serres writes about issues affecting society's most vulnerable populations, including the poor, elderly, mentally ill and people with cognitive and physical disabilities. He is married and has two children, Dominic, 12, and Emmanuelle, 10. He has been a newspaper reporter for 20 years.
Recent content from Chris Serres
This home in West St. Paul is operated by the state Department of Human Services. It’s licensed to provide care and living services for up to four a

Man fatally stabs fellow resident at state-run mental health group home in West St. Paul

Another resident arrested in attack at state-run mental health facility in West St. Paul; others unharmed.
Supporters of a ballot initiative to loosen restraints on local rent control laws rallied in San Francisco in 2018.

Review: "Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America," by Conor Dougherty

NONFICTION: A New York Times reporter takes a hard look at the problem of affordable housing.
Apple Valley's ordinance prohibits people convicted of certain sex offenses from living within 1,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, churches and

Minnesota sex offenders sue over residency restrictions in Apple Valley

Attorneys argue the far-reaching ordinance effectively bars sex offenders from living in the city.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead called the state investigative report “troubling,” and said her agency was working to bolster training

Patient at Minn. state mental hospital abused, strapped to restraint chair, report says

The Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter has been cited nearly a dozen times for violating rules limiting the use of restraints on patients.
Eric Lindblad walked his bundled up 1-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, Supernova, through the snow in Northeast Minneapolis last month.

Snowstorm to blanket Twin Cities, much of central, southern Minnesota

The forecast calls for 3 to 8 inches in the metro area, with heavier accumulations to the south.
Iris Altamirano, president of SEIU Local 26, addressed hundreds of janitors and security officers Saturday. They voted to authorize a strike over sick

Twin Cities janitors, security officers vote to authorize strike over pay, sick leave

The president of the SEIU Local 26 said "differences are still mighty."
A nurse’s aide at a senior care facility in Byron, Minn., posted this image of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease along with a demeaning message.

Court: Alzheimer's patient's photo posted on social media not illegal

Attorneys for the Alzheimer's patient's husband sued the facility, alleging the post revealed private information about the patient's health condition.
Derwin Turner, left, unloaded dozens of foam mats, along with Elim Church Lead Pastor Paul Stephen Olson, center, and KMS owner Ken McCraley, right, i

With state help, hundreds of shelter beds open for homeless Minnesotans

Gov. Walz launched effort to help the homeless.
Tori Boyer, a mother of three who has received MFIP assistance since she suffered a traumatic brain injury, said that for a time the monthly payments

Minnesota welfare payments to increase for first time since 1986

The raise of $100 a month for 29,000 families is the first since 1986.
Bradford Teslow, who has intellectual disabilities, was hired through the Connect 700 program for a job in state government, but says his multiple req

Minn. jobs program for people with disabilities fails to live up to promise

Fewer than 12% of hires still work in state jobs.

Woman hammers nails into her head; Maplewood assisted-living facility faulted

Woman pounded nails into her head that weren't detected for a month.
Minnesota State Senator J im Abeler led a hearing Wednesday where Minnesota Department of Human Services officials unveiled plans to improve the state

Minnesota takes steps to modernize disability services

People with disabilities and their families say the $3 billion program is confusing and arbitrary.
State Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said the new internal audit is a sign her agency is responding to complaints.

Audit finds violations of laws to prevent fraud at DHS unit

An internal audit at the Minnesota Department of Human Services has found several violations of laws to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in the division responsible for a recent series of improper payments.

Report: Minnesota shows progress in reducing child removals

The number of kids removed from homes because of abuse or neglect fell for first time in 9 years.
In 2017, Lisa Papp-Richards installed a camera to monitor the care of her mother, Mary Ann Richards, 77, at a nursing home in Bemidji, taking advantag

Minnesota law gives green light to surveillance cameras in senior homes

Cameras have become an important tool for families who suspect abuse in senior care facilities.
Jennifer Wright was shocked to learn that the senior care clinic that cares for her 84-year-old mother, Jo Wright, will be shutting down in February.

Clinic closings will worsen Minn. shortage of geriatric specialists

Hennepin Healthcare will be closing its Augustana and Parkside senior care clinics, both in Minneapolis, at the end of February.
State legislators from both parties and disability rights advocates are gearing up for a major push to reform Minnesota’s $3 billion assistance prog

Disability rights to take center stage as Minnesota Legislature sets to convene

Legislators from both parties want changes in the state's assistance program, plus more inclusion.
American Indian activists began to assemble outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday night to demand more emergency shelter beds for pe

Indian activists escalate campaign for more shelter beds in Twin Cities

The group said it will continue to occupy public spaces until officials approve a culturally-specific shelter.
Erik Wiltscheck has been homeless and living in a motel in Brooklyn Center since he was evicted last week from a “sober home” in Minneapolis. Wilt

Overdose at St. Paul 'sober home' sheds light on unregulated industry

Sober homes can play a vital role, but critics say oftentimes they're just a bed and a trigger for relapse.
Dustin Sabby’s family used state IRIS funding to install a whirlpool – “a godsend,” said his mom, Lori Sabby-Lemke, who said that it soothes D

In Wisconsin, people with disabilities can direct own medical funding

The controversial move shifted the balance of power away from insurers and government bureaucrats, and empowered individuals to make their own choices
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, left, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, right, met with displaced Francis Drake Hotel residents at Bethlehem Baptist Church,

Uprooted by fire, dozens of homeless families face an uncertain future amid housing crisis

An exterior inspection of the building determined that the eastern portion cannot be salvaged.
Social workers cleared of liability in 2013 death of 4-year-old Eric Dean

Social workers cleared of liability in 2013 death of 4-year-old Eric Dean

State appeals court rules 3 on staff have immunity.
Several hundred people marched in the silent Homeless Memorial March carrying signs that recognized the 190 homeless, previously homeless and advocate

Gov. Tim Walz nets nearly $5 million to combat homelessness in Minnesota

Leaders aim to open about 150 new shelter beds immediately.
Hennepin County Deputy Administrator Jennifer DeCubellis said the county’s child protection system has turned a corner and is “out of crisis,” b

Hennepin County agrees to sweeping improvements in child protection

"We are out of crisis" but not finished with reforms, a top official says.
Native American community members and leaders gathered around a fire before a teepee was erected during the early morning hours on Saturday along Fran

Indian activists end occupation of former Minneapolis homeless camp, vow to keep fighting for more shelter beds

They're negotiating with the city for more shelter beds.
Prayer ties are seen Saturday on a fence near where a teepee was erected during the early morning hours on a stretch of land along Hiawatha and Frankl

Indian activists hunker down at site of former Minneapolis homeless camp

For a second day, American Indian activists occupied the site of a once-sprawling homeless encampment, insisting they will not leave until local officials address their demands for more emergency shelter beds.
Protesters have erected a teepee at the center of a former homeless encampment in south Minneapolis, seen Saturday morning.

Indian activists reoccupy site of former Mpls. homeless camp

Despite city's efforts, more must be done to help the homeless, leaders say.
Patricia Wilson looks out of the bedroom at her group home to see if her mother has arrived. Her mother, Janet Resler, takes Wilson out to community m

Disabled Minnesota residents often live in costly isolation

Rather than helping develop care plans that would allow disabled Minnesotans to live in their homes, counties continue to steer thousands into facilities that promote dependency and isolation.
Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, questioned new Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead in September. Abeler said it’s unfair to ask the c

Minnesota counties resist costly payments for Department of Human Services errors

The department is trying to collect $9 million from counties for mistakes it made.
State Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead

Human services commissioner fills several top posts at embattled Minnesota agency

They're the first major leadership appointments as Commissioner Jodi Harpstead rebuilds trust.
State Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead testified before lawmakers about what she has learned in her first 90 days and her plans going forwar

State DHS leader lays out plan to rebuild trust in troubled agency

Jodi Harpstead pledged to strengthen internal controls and form an outside advisory council that will include Bill George, the former Medtronic CEO who was once Harpstead's boss.
La Vang, 26, of Newport, a former home health nurse, was convicted of stealing painkillers from an elderly patient under his care.

Twin Cities home health nurse gets 18 months for stealing painkillers

Prosecutors sought a tough sentence because of the victim's prolonged suffering and vulnerability.
Apple Valley artist Sarah Bender is among the co-founders of the "Treat People Like People" campaign. She said people frequently make false assumption

New campaign highlights power of people with disabilities

Unlike many anti-abuse campaigns, which reduce victims to impassive caricatures, "Treat People Like People" features people with disabilities as fully actualized humans, with voices and dreams of their own.
Samuel Lee Sandbo, 21, of Windom, has been charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct with vulnerable adults.

Male aide charged with two sexual assaults at southwest Minnesota group homes

Both victims have significant intellectual and mental disabilities, according to a criminal complaint.

Infant dies after suffering serious injury at central Minnesota day care

The operator's license has been suspended.
DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead listened as Legislative Auditor James Nobles discussed the results of his investigation into Medicaid overpayments by

Counties will pay for some of DHS' growing financial failures

What was $48 million in improper payments to chemical dependency treatment providers has now grown into a more expensive problem as the Minnesota Department of Human Services revealed additional failures Monday.
Ann Michele Jadlowski

Ann Michele Jadlowski, Catholic nun who comforted the sick and dying, dies at 94

A member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, she continued to provide outreach to patients at the hospital until just days before her death.
State Sen. Julie Rosen led a hearing Wednesday over the leadership at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) for its mismanagement of financ

Legislators say state's DHS not alone in sloppy contracting

Legislators leveled stinging criticism at state agencies at a hearing on mismanagement of financial contracts that led to nearly 1,800 violations of state law over the past year.
Jodi Harpstead, center, Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner (DHS), appeared in October before a Senate committee about the agency maki

Costly Medicaid missteps could foretell bigger problems at DHS

A top official at the Minnesota Department of Human Services told the legislative auditor that overpayments to two Indian bands are just "one example" of wider dysfunction in the agency's oversight of millions of dollars.
Legislative Auditor James Nobles held up the complicated organizational chart of DHS as he spoke on the results of its investigation into Medicaid ove

Documents show DHS broke law more than 200 times in past year

The Minnesota Department of Human Services violated state law with $52 million in contracts and grant commitments to vendors, Indian bands and other state government agencies without proper documentation, according to records.
Sheana Schlichter, a former assessor from Scott County, meets with Carolyn Thomson of Northfield at her home. Her 13-year-old son, Finnegan has a seve

Complaints, gaps dog system to distribute disability services

A $600 million system was supposed to streamline aid for people with disabilities. But instead it's a giant mess.
Jodi Harpstead, center, Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner (DHS), appeared before a Senate committee about the agency making $29 mill

Lawmakers grill new DHS chief on breakdowns in oversight

Jodi Harpstead pledged to fix gaps in oversight that led to tens of millions of dollars in overpayments.
Legislative Auditor James Nobles held up the complicated organizational chart of DHS as he spoke on the results of its investigation into Medicaid ove

'Troubling dysfunction' at Minn. agency led to overpayments, report says

Legislative auditor said the $29 million in overpayments to two Indian bands for opioid treatment was "inexcusable" and called for deep reforms at DHS.
DHS compliance officer Faye Bernstein protested against mistreatment of whistleblowers outside of a rally for President Donald Trump in Minneapolis.

DHS worker alleges ongoing retaliation for raising alarms over state opioid contracts

The legislative auditor expresses concern and is monitoring the situation.
Brenda Pike, 61. who drives for Uber, has been unable to access medications to control her severe depression and wild mood swings since she lost Medic

Hundreds lose health coverage over new Minn. Medicaid rules

DHS said 1,300 people have lost their coverage since the state's new asset-verification policy went into effect last month. Hundreds more are at risk of losing coverage as the agency rolls out the new system statewide through next spring.
Tepees of Sioux Indians below Fort Snelling; held captive at Fort Snelling after the US-Dakota War of 1862.

State relocates adoption event set for Fort Snelling amid outcry from Indian groups

Fort Snelling was a site of suffering, trauma for Dakota families in 1860s.
Stacey Vogele cared for her 18-year-old daughter, Tana, who has a severe neurological disorder and suffers from seizures.

A Medicaid waiver system so confusing that families hire guides

Stacey Vogele was weaving through rush-hour traffic in her white SUV, searching for the house of Sam, a 21-year-old with Down syndrome and developmental delays.…
PCA Nora Clark looks in on Scott Semo while Ramsey County. Semo had a massive brain hemorrhage in 2001 and requires intensive medical care.

High-stakes assessments upend lives of families with disabilities

A few hours can shape the rest of the year for Minnesota families. High-stakes disability assessments deliver critical help, or despair.
Steven G. Nelson, 58, died of a brain injury after being brutally beaten by a staff member at an assisted-living facility in Hill City, Minn., accordi

76 criminal charges allege abuse at northern Minn. senior care home

Manslaughter is among the charges brought against staff and owner of Chappy's Golden Shores in Hill City, Minn.
Tamara Frazee and son Trystan, 11, who has autism spectrum disorder, moved to Austin after their benefits were slashed.

'Geography is destiny' for Minnesota families coping with disabilities

With families desperate, thousands are uprooting themselves in Minnesota because they can't get the help they need where they live.
Lizzie Gold, accompanied by youngest daughter Grace,4, brought daughter Lizzie,7, to Crescent Cove for a respite weekend.] Sidebar--Emily Gold cared f

'No child with a terminal illness should have to wait for Medicaid services'

Emily and David Gold keep the small bedroom where their daughter Lizzie once lived exactly as she left it. Her favorite flowered dress hangs on…
“My father was exceedingly accomplished [and] exceedingly humble.” — son Rob Segal

Martin Segal, groundbreaking pathologist and master clarinetist, dies at 98

Segal founded and led the first nationally accredited pathology lab in the Twin Cities at what is now Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.
Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash said he was wrongfully discharged from the state Department of Human Services after he began raising concerns about whether the

Ex-official accuses DHS of retaliation after he raises concerns of racial bias

Mohamed (Mourssi) Alfash, who worked within the Office of the Inspector General, alleges he was pushed out soon after he began raising the concerns.
The state is seeking to combat homelessness by offering a broad array of new housing support services under Medicaid. In 2018, hundreds of people live

Minnesota launches new housing benefit for poor seniors and people with disabilities

Nearly 8,000 people will receive housing support under the new Medicaid benefit.
White Earth chairman Eugene Tibbetts (right) testified at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday on the $25 million in alleged Medicaid overpayments. He i

State pressures Indian bands to repay $25M in Medicaid overpayments

Documents suggest DHS knew about Medicaid overpayments in 2015.
Faron Jackson, Sr., chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said the band would not reimburse the state for millions of dollars in disputed Medicai

Leech Lake Band says Minnesota officials approved millions of dollars in wrongful Medicaid payments

Leech Lake Ojibwe refuse to repay $13.3 million in alleged overbillings.
Legislative Auditor James Nobles has launched an investigation into $25 million in overpayments to two tribes for substance abuse treatment.

Minnesota overpaid $25M to two tribes for substance abuse treatment

The overpayments, made over a period of five years, were made to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation to provide Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid dependency.
Sylwia Pawlak-Reynolds, 43, communicates with her son William via Skype as he eats a dinner after school. A Polish mother and day care operator charge

Feds seek to extradite Mpls. day care operator accused of murder

Sylwia Pawlak-Reynolds has refused to return to the U.S. from Poland to face questioning, citing a fear of being imprisoned and separated from her infant son, who remains under her care in Poland.
Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Reform Committee, has joined other lawmakers in calling for the DHS to be b

Minnesota DHS official says she was punished for speaking out

Faye K. Bernstein said she raised alarms about the legality of contracts at the social services agency. Lawmakers have renewed calls for breaking up the Minnesota Department of Human Services amid leadership disarray.
Roger, left, and Wendell Hatalla cut up and removed debris left from the storm Saturday near Turtle Lake, Wis. Storms ripped through western Wisconsin

Wisconsin neighbors help neighbors clear storm mess

Residents expressed overwhelming relief that no one came to harm.
Claire Wilson, left, and Charles Johnson.

Two Minn. DHS deputies return after Lourey, chief of staff resign

Claire Wilson and Charles Johnson rescinded their resignations.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned from his post Monday after just six months on the job.

Minnesota DHS head Lourey resigns abruptly in shake-up

State's Human Services head quits after 2 top deputies resigned.
Claire Wilson, left, and Charles Johnson.

Two top Minn. Dept. of Human Services officials leave posts

The abrupt departures of two veteran administrators set up an early test of the leadership of Commissioner Tony Lourey.
Daniel Moga, a former priest, psychologist and prominent antiwar activist from St. Paul, died of complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosi

Daniel I. Moga, a former priest who preached pacifism, dies at 87

Moga and his wife, Moira, who died early this year, emerged as intellectual leaders of the local antiwar movement during the 1960s and beyond.
“This legislation absolutely will save lives,” said Sen. Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee and author of the

Landmark law aims to protect elders, but who writes rules?

Minnesota lawmakers have approved the broadest expansion of the state's oversight of the long-term care industry in generations.
A year ago, relatives of elder abuse victims gathered outside the House chamber to protest legislative inaction over proposals that would have protect

Deal reached to protect Minn. seniors from abuse, neglect

A far-reaching agreement is widely expected to become law this session after two years of contentious deliberations, hearings and protests.
Steven G. Nelson, 58, died of a brain injury after being brutally beaten by a staff member at an assisted-living facility in Hill City, Minn., accordi

Charges could follow alleged abuse at a northern Minnesota senior home

Law enforcement agencies have launched multiple investigations on incidents at a Hill City facility.
Maple Lake Recovery Center

Teen boys sexually abused at drug treatment center in Wright County, state says

Investigators determine a female staff member molested three youths.
Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey and Jill Wiedemann-West, CEO of People Incorporated, discussed the benefits of the coordinated care model at a

Minnesota's new mental-health treatment model faces uncertain future

"One stop" services could expand in Minnesota – or lose their funding entirely.
Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Family Advocates, second from left, led a group to meet with legislators. Also there are Jane Overby, Kris

Report highlights abuses, deaths in state's assisted-living facilities

The assisted-living industry has mushroomed in recent years, but Minnesota's consumer protections have not kept pace with these changes, exposing residents to serious harm and premature deaths, according to state records.
State Auditor James Nobles said efforts to detect and prevent fraud in Minnesota’s $283 million child-care assistance program have been “insuffici

Legislative auditor: Minnesota's efforts to prevent fraud in child care program are 'insufficient'

State officials are seeking broad new powers to combat fraud, monitor day care providers.
Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey notified lawmakers Tuesday of the data breach, which could potentially affect the personal information of abou

Hacker breached Minnesota state agency e-mail, placing data of 11,000 at risk

It's the third cyberattack against the agency in a year.
Martin Kellogg

Martin Kellogg, businessman who helped create Voyageurs National Park, dies at 88

Martin N. Kellogg, a visionary conservationist whose love for pristine wilderness inspired him to play a leading role in the creation of two iconic Minnesota…
Sylwia Pawlak-Reynolds, in Poland, speaks with her son William, 7, of south Minneapolis, via Skype.

Mpls. mom refuses to return to the U.S. to face murder charges

The case has spawned a bitter battle in Hennepin County court, drawn criticism from national child welfare advocates and is now attracting attention from authorities of Poland, who worry that her rights to a fair trial are being violated.
Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, and House Republicans unveiled a package of legislation intended to prevent fraud in the state Child Care Assistance Pr

Minn. House GOP seeks crackdown on fraud in child care program

Proposed legislation comes on heels of audit reporting illegal overbilling.