Starting Oct. 1, telephone counseling is required for Minnesotans before moving into an assisted living facility, under a new state law. About 30,000 people a year will be affected.

Why: State officials want frail older people and their families to know about programs to help them stay in their homes, delaying placement in more expensive "housing with services" facilities, often called assisted living. That may save money for individuals, and save the state an estimated $3.8 million a year.

Those entering government-subsidized assisted living are not required to get counseling.

The counseling: Typical phone counseling will take five to 10 minutes. A counselor will ask seven questions about care needs, describe other care options and, if appropriate, refer the caller to other services or to a county social services agency for in-home screening.

Verification number: When finished, the counselor will give the caller a "verification code" number -- proof of counseling -- that must be given to an assisted living facility before signing a lease. The number also will be mailed to the caller.

Right to refuse: Anyone may refuse the counseling, but still must get the verification number to hand in before leasing an assisted living unit.

How to start: Call the Minnesota Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433.