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Chris Serres

Reporter | Social Services
phone: 612-673-4308
Chris Serres covers social services for the Star Tribune. He 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
Testing the technology: Hadley Lucca, making slime with her mom, Sarah, took part in a groundbreaking study at the University of Minnesota that uses e

Electrical brain stimulation could benefit children with cerebral palsy, U study finds

First-of-its-kind study using electrical currents to boost motor skills shows promise.
Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a series of proposals Tuesday intended to enhance state oversight of senior care facilities and impose tougher penalties aga

Dayton proposes new measures to crack down on mistreatment in senior homes

A surge in complaints, including cases of criminal abuse and assault, caused state regulators to fall far behind.
Unshoveled sidewalks in front of the house where Jerry Lee Curry allegedly abused his twin daughters until authorities removed the young women from th

In Minneapolis, a 'house of horrors' hides in plain sight

Neighbors and relatives wonder why authorities didn't do more to rescue twin sisters who endured years of sexual abuse and neglect by their father.
Paulette Bakeberg, 70, was physically assaulted at an assisted-living facility in Delano, and is among hundreds of elderly residents of senior homes w

Scathing report assails state for failure to protect vulnerable seniors

Long-awaited findings are likely to fuel calls for reform to the state's troubled system for investigating abuse.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said DHS officials should be held in contempt of court for failing to admit an inmate held for 14 days after he wa

Sheriffs want legal action as mentally ill languish in Minnesota's jails

DHS has left too many to languish in jail, they say.
Acting Human Services Commissioner Chuck Johnson said the state has shown great gains in its effort to eliminate a backlog of unresolved allegations o

State's backlog of elder abuse reports virtually gone thanks to improved intake system

State had more than 3,000 unresolved cases alleging maltreatment in facilities.
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo has charged the caregiver with two felony counts of neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Anoka County caregiver charged with criminal neglect in death of 83-year-old Minnesota man

Nurse found elderly man lying naked in the dark with filthy bandages, court complaint says.
Jennifer Curtis of Forest Lake made an emotional appeal to the council to approve the zoning text change.

Proposed children's mental health facility draws support

Despite pleas, the proposed $20M residential treatment center in Forest Lake faces an uphill battle, and the city council delayed voting on it.
Angela Naviosh got a hug from Douglas Milek while they waited at the Avivo recovery center to take a chemical health assessment.

Minn. agencies pushing for faster access to drug treatment

By July, many will get help in hours instead of weeks amid rising need with the nation's opioid epidemic.
With a box of his dead mother's ashes on the desk in front of him, Kent Edwards described how she was abused by two caregivers at a Lino Lakes assiste

Victims denounce a failing state system for responding to reports of elder abuse

Minnesota Senate committee chair says too many reports of abuse have "fallen through the cracks."
New Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said her agency is committed to eliminating a giant backlog of unresolved reports of abuse and neglect in senior c

State reports sharp drop in backlog of senior home abuse complaints

Health Dept. greatly accelerated review of outstanding maltreatment allegations.
The idea for a legislative auditor’s review of the Office of Health Facility Complaints came out of some grass-roots efforts by a group of abuse vic

New report to highlight broad failures in state response to elder abuse

Legislative probe uncovered widespread issues that require "immediate action."
Angry residents at Autumn Glen Senior Living in Coon Rapids pushed back against steep rent increases of 15 to 30 percent, which had threatened to upro

After backlash, Minnesota senior facility rescinds huge rent hike

"I think they thought we were old and frail and unable to speak up. But we were very determined to shake people up about this — and we did," said 85-year-old Janet Dahlquist.
Autumn Glen residents, including Bill Erickson, left, and Jim Nauman, who both use motorized scooters, gathered to talk about their fears for the futu

Minn. senior community fights 'astronomical' rent increases

Minnesota, like a handful of other states, does not license assisted-living facilities, which means that residents generally have no more rights and protections than renters in an ordinary apartment building.
Jan Malcolm in 2011.

New Minn. Health Dept. leader pledges to make fight vs. elder abuse a priority

Gov. Dayton has appointed former Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to lead the Health Department, following highly publicized reports of breakdowns in senior home regulation.
Patrick Arthur Jansen, 58, an overnight staff member at a Sauk Rapids group home, has been charged with assaulting two female clients with disabilitie

Two young women with disabilities sexually assaulted at Sauk Rapids group home

A male caregiver who worked the overnight shift at a Sauk Rapids group home has been charged with sexually assaulting two female residents who were unable to report the assaults because of their disabilities.
Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Family Advocates, called for broad-based reforms to the state’s system for handling elder abuse complain

Task force:'Dramatic' reforms needed to end abuse in senior homes

Consumer work group was commissioned by Dayton in wake of Star Tribune probe.
The corporate office of Ebenezer Care in Minneapolis.

Orono senior home cited in death of woman found 10 hours after fall

The woman died a few weeks after being left on the floor for 10 hours.
Thomas Duvall was convicted of a series of brutal rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and has admitted to more than 60 victims.

State and county officials challenge plans to release serial rapist Duvall

State agency, prosecutors say Thomas Duvall is still fixated on violence.
A dozen sex offenders remain stuck at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), in part because state officials have nowhere to send them amid a flur

3 Minnesota sex offenders fight city ordinance that essentially bans them

Offenders have been cleared for release but the city of Dayton's ordinance is so restrictive that they have nowhere to go, lawsuit says.
Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper

Minnesota officials detail backlog of elder abuse cases

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said a team of state officials is sorting through more than 2,300 reports of maltreatment in senior homes.
Oxycodone-acetaminophen pills.

Opioid crisis putting strain on Minnesota's child protection setup

Parental drug abuse forces thousands into foster care.
An order to release serial rapist Thomas Duvall, who left court last April, has met fierce opposition from his victims.

Prospect of Minnesota serial rapist's release is met with fear and anger

Nearly 1,000 people have signed petition in less than 2 weeks.
“Frances was a giant in the Indian community here.’’ — Clyde Bellecourt

Frances Fairbanks, who helped co-found AIM, dies at 88

Frances G. Fairbanks, who rescued the Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC) from financial straits in the 1980s and became an unrelenting advocate for Indian causes for nearly 40 years, died in October at a nursing home in south Minneapolis. She was 88.
Thomas Duvall left the Dakota County Judicial Center in Hastings in April.

Serial rapist cleared for release from sex offender program

Thomas Duvall, who was locked up for 30 years for violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s, is now contrite, a panel of Minnesota judges ruled.
Dan Pollock, who took over as Minnesota’s acting health commissioner last month, plans to double the number of staff devoted to investigating maltre

Trump policy shift endangers Minnesota's crackdown on elder abuse

New directives call for rolling back federal penalties on nursing homes violating health and safety rules.
The Kateri Residence, which provides temporary housing for American Indian women recovering from addiction, is slated to close by July of this year.

Savior emerges for Mpls. home serving Indian women struggling with addiction

Indian women's group says center "can't go away."
Cora Mustin played with her 15-year-old autistic son, Jordan. He gets coordinated care at a People Inc. holistic clinic.

'One-stop shopping' model gets mental health care to thousands

If current trends continue, officials estimate more than 15,000 patients will be served by July, for one of the broadest expansions of the state's community mental health system in years.
Jo Ann Johnson,59, has been staying at Simpson United Methodist Church's 66-bed shelter for the past eight months. She lost her husband Gary a year ag

With major gift, homeless shelter dares to 'dream big' about future

For 35 years, the basement of Simpson United Methodist Church in the Whittier neighborhood of south Minneapolis has served as a much-needed sanctuary for people experiencing the trauma and stress of homelessness.
New acting Minn. health chief pledges tough action on elder abuse investigations

New acting Minn. health chief pledges tough action on elder abuse investigations

Days into new job, Dan Pollock pledges major reforms to Department of Health's policing of elder abuse.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger

Health commissioner resigns after mishandling of elder abuse

Dr. Edward Ehlinger's resignation comes five weeks after the publication of a Star Tribune series on elder abuse.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said the agency has been struggling to keep pace with a surging volume of abuse and neglect complaints i

State employees say elder-abuse reports tossed in trash due to backlog of cases

Chronic chaos, dysfunction recounted at state office investigating elder abuse.
Emory David Dively, deputy director of the state commission for the deaf, said untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression and oth

Minnesota home care workers will get training on detecting hearing loss among seniors

Hearing loss, often undetected, can lead to depression and cognitive decline, new research shows.
Top Minnesota regulator fired, triggering calls for better senior abuse scrutiny

Top Minnesota regulator fired, triggering calls for better senior abuse scrutiny

Whistleblower reprisal alleged at Health Dept.'s elder abuse division.
Roberta Opheim, the state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities, said a "cascade of miscommunications" led to the sexual assault

Girl sexually assaulted while on unsupervised leave from treatment facility

Treatment center failed to monitor her contact with an adult.
The Kateri Residence, which provides temporary housing for American Indian women recovering from addiction, will close its doors.

Mpls. home for American Indian women with addiction to close after 44 years

Highly valued in Minneapolis' American Indian community, but faced financial problems.
Emergency dispatcher Jo Richmond demonstrates how the new “Text-to-911” service works at the University of Minnesota’s emergency communications

Minnesotans can now text "911" instead of calling to summon help

Designed for people with hearing and speaking disabilities — or when silence makes a difference.
Maxwell Kelsey’s reverence for tradition and attention to detail have turned him into one of the region’s go-to makers of old-style, wooden lacros

Bemidji man helps fuel lacrosse revival with traditional sticks

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" says the woodworker, holding up a freshly carved stick. "I'm peeling back history with every draw of that knife."
Elder Voice members visited the Capitol on Friday to meet with Gov. Dayton’s administration about abuse in senior care homes.

Families of elder abuse victims speak out, wield new power at Capitol

In recent weeks this coalition, known as Elder Voice Family Advocates, has emerged from obscurity to play a central role in early efforts by the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton to reform Minnesota's troubled system for responding to violent crimes and other forms of abuse in senior homes.
Gov. Mark Dayton

Gov. Dayton calls for new elder-abuse work group

He'll appoint AARP officials to lead reform efforts ahead of 2018 Legislature.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called for more aggressive action by federal action to prevent and respond to incidents of abuse in senior care facilitie

Klobuchar: More must be done to stop abuse in senior homes

The federal agency that regulates nursing homes must take more aggressive steps to prevent and respond to violent crimes and other forms of abuse in senior care facilities, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday. In her letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, she cited a five-day, Star Tribune special report.
Male aide gets 1-year sentence in sexual assault of 78-year-old Minnesota woman

Male aide gets 1-year sentence in sexual assault of 78-year-old Minnesota woman

Advocates say the case highlights deeper problems with the often-secretive response to elder crimes.
The Emily Program in St. Paul is shifting its focus on patients with more severe and dangerous eating disorders, and dropping up to 250 patients with

Emily Program to narrow eating disorder treatments, drop roughly 250 patients

The eating disorder clinic will focus on patients with severe and dangerous eating disorders.
Tiffany Morgan helped her daughter, Ny’Ana, who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, with her homework after school on a recent afternoon.

Minnesota scientists deploy high-tech tools to map damage from fetal alcohol

Prenatal alcohol exposure affects about 7,000 newborns in Minnesota each year, and its effects remain deeply misunderstood.
Sen, Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate committee on aging and long-term care, said she is preparing a package of reforms to address widespread a

Minn. senator demands greater disclosure on senior abuse, investigations

Sen. Karin Housley says problems outlined in Star Tribune investigation are "untenable."
“The facilities around here, they know we're watching,” said Paul Greenwood, a San Diego County deputy district attorney.

A more aggressive model for protecting seniors from abuse

PART 5 OF 5: A dedicated team of prosecutors, investigators and victims' advocates in San Diego County has made elder abuse a priority in the region's crime-fighting strategy.
Mathias and Estelle Schaust, both in their 80s, lived with the worry that they’d be kicked out of their senior housing because of their complaints.

Special Report: Minnesota senior home residents risk eviction when they speak up

PART 4: Across Minnesota, families who take complaints to the state Department of Health encounter dead ends and delays. Yet when they take their complaints directly to the management of their care homes, many find themselves facing retaliation.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton addressed a wide range of issues including reports of criminal acts at senior care facilities from a Star Tribune repor

Gov. Dayton calls for task force to address senior care abuses

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would create a task force to deal with abuses in senior homes revealed in a Star Tribune series this week. "The senior care failures are really appalling," he said.
First Covenant Church stands on the corner of 7th Street and Chicago Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

Some homeless will be moved outside of Super Bowl perimeter

A current shelter at First Covenant Church is inside the Super Bowl security perimeter.
David Rikhus, Olmsted County detective: “The amount of mental anguish can be off the charts.”

Detective ferrets out financial crimes against older Minnesotans

David Rikhus' work has led to more than 30 convictions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in recoveries for elderly victims.
Mark Kosieradzki, an elder abuse attorney from Plymouth, has made millions suing Minnesota nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for allowing w

Meet the Minnesota lawyer taking on the senior-care industry

lymouth attorney Mark Kosieradzki has a long history of multimillion-dollar legal victories, earning a reputation as one of the nation's most feared elder abuse litigators.
James Parker, 77, and his daughter complained about a volatile roommate. “He nearly beat the life out of me,” Parker said.

When senior home residents are abusers, state rarely investigates

PART 3: Altercations between residents have grown more frequent and more serious in recent years as senior care facilities have allowed more seniors with psychiatric problems to live alongside frail elderly residents.
Clayton Braaten, the grieving husband of Grayce who was sexually assaulted at a Bemidji senior home, talks about the case as his daughter Michelle Bra

PART 2: When seniors are victimized, families can wait years for answers

PART 2: Long delays in Health Department investigations leave many families in limbo, making it impossible for them to move on with their lives and eroding their faith in the state's ability to protect the elderly.
Secrecy often stymies families seeking answers about elder abuse

Secrecy often stymies families seeking answers about elder abuse

In Minnesota, state law often bars families access to any details about incidents of abuse and neglect at senior care facilities.
Janice Hiller and her daughter Dawn Hiller peered inside the shuttered Superior View senior home, two years after husband and father Wally Hiller died

A "daily horror show" at one Minnesota senior care home

The history of a northern Minnesota assisted-living facility highlights a deeper breakdown in the way the state regulates the rapidly growing assisted-living industry.
The majority of crimes against residents of Minnesota's senior care centers are never resolved, and the perpetrators never punished, because state reg

Senior home residents abused, ignored across state

Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.
Oxycodone-acetaminophen pills.

Minnesota agencies will get $16.6 million to fight opioid abuse

"Too many lives have been lost already," state commissioner says.
St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd has stopped accepting patients with severe psychiatric probems who are court-ordered to receive treatment, i

Brainerd hospital stops admitting patients with severe mental illnesses, citing state bottlenecks

Patients under court commitment strain hospital's resources, officials said.
The entrance to the Heritage House assisted-living facility in Pequot Lakes. The operator forfeited its license after state regulators found serious i

Minnesota senior home operator forfeits part of license amid complaints

State took unusual step after investigation found repeated violations.

Death in northern Minnesota senior home linked to neglect

Report: Senior home did not keep catheter clean.
Colleen Timbers

Obituary: Colleen Carol Timbers advocated for people with disabilities, in work and life

Colleen Carol Timbers, a feisty champion who empowered thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities to take charge of their lives, died in August at her sister’s…
Attorneys urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of Minnesota's controversial system of confining hundreds of sex offenders afte

U.S. Supreme Court won't hear Minnesota sex offender program case

Lawsuit had challenged constitutionality of sex offender confinement.
Bryant Simon Photo by Glennis London Pagano

REVIEW: 'The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives,' by Bryant Simon

NONFICTION: A deep analysis of the root causes of a fire at a North Carolina chicken processing plant that killed 25 workers.
David E. DeLong, 60, of Pine River, leaves the Crow Wing County District Court after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 78-year-old woman with A

Minnesota caregiver pleads guilty to sexually assaulting woman with Alzheimer's

Facility still faces allegations that it hid incident from family members.
Bruce Biddlecome, the former executive director of Douglas Place Treatment Center in East Grand Forks, Minn., pleaded guilty last year to sexually abu

Patient at troubled Minn. treatment center sexually abused by staff member

Investigation finds new instances of abuse at East Grand Forks facility that already lost executive director over similar case
Rebekah, a Crisis Connection crisis counselor in Richfield took a call from a mental health professional who was asking where to send callers in crisi

Minnesota mental health crisis line gets rescued at the last minute

The state Health Department has agreed to provide money to keep Crisis Connection open until late September.
Russell L. Langworthy, a distinguished anthropology professor at Carleton College, died on July 1. He was 92.

Carleton anthropologist Russell L. Langworthy, 92, wasn't afraid to get dirt under his fingernails

Friends and relatives remember Langworthy as an eccentric polymath who became so immersed in the rural societies he studied.
Crisis Connection manager and psychotherapist Laura Weber worked with a volunteer speaking to a caller who was in a mental health crisis. Crisis Conne

Minnesota mental health crisis hot line closing Friday

Crisis Connection service helped 20,000 callers a year, but suffered chronic financial losses.
Jackie Spanjers, shown in 2016, retired last week after 20 years as a nurse at Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. She said the state mental hospit

Surging number of jail inmates posing threat to Anoka mental hospital

The share of Anoka-Metro's population coming from jails has nearly tripled since 2013, according to state data released last week.
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo’s office alleges that two caregivers verbally and physically abused a 70-year-old resident of an assisted-living

Two caregivers at Lino Lakes senior home charged with abusing 70-year-old resident

Another worker, who is not identified, recorded portions of the abuse and shared the recordings with Lino Lakes police.
Michelle Heizelman has had nightmares since childhood. She eventually went to HCMC’s sleep disorder center, where her treatment started with an all-

Nightmare finally ends for St. Cloud teacher cured of rare sleep disorder

Michelle Heizelman was diagnosed with a rare and sometimes debilitating condition known as "nightmare disorder," defined by frequent, extremely vivid dreams that usually involve threats to one's survival. Then, after 40 years, came a miracle.
University of Minnesota clinical psychologist Piper Meyer-Kalos said, “We are trying to flip the system on its head,” with a new approach to treat

New approach to detecting and treating early psychosis gains a foothold in Minnesota

Goal is to help young patients rally more quickly after traumatic "breaks."
Public outrage over the abuse of 4-year-old Eric Dean, photographed here with a broken arm, triggered far-reaching reforms to Minnesota’s child prot

Federal suit says Minn. foster care system failing hundreds of children

In a civil rights action, attorneys for a national child advocacy group allege that the state and Hennepin County have failed to meet their legal obligations to provide secure homes.
Naomi Davis, a former employee at Complementary Support Services, said she felt "sick to her stomach" when the mental health agency asked her to falsi

Twin Cities mental health agency to pay $4.5M in federal fraud case

Mental health services company is accused of overbilling for client care.
This Victorian-style home on Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis will provide short-term, transitional housing for people with mental illnesses who ha

HCMC seeks to ease patient bottlenecks with new mental health crisis center

Crisis center will be a place for patients to gain strength before re-entering society.
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