The May 22 article “Elder care reforms take hits in final bill” was the latest of the many biased attempts by the Star Tribune over the past year to sensationalize and strike fear in the public (and to sell papers). Among many things, it overshadows the fact that the vast majority of providers do a tremendous job of serving and protecting their residents.
In the majority of assisted-living and nursing-home settings across Minnesota, we treat our residents as extended family members and care for them as if we are caring for our own parents, family members and friends.
Furthermore, contrary to what the article states and advocates such as Elder Voice Family Advocates and AARP are attempting to argue, the reforms and policy proposals included in the omnibus supplemental budget bill sent to the governor’s desk are a great step in the right direction. The provisions included significant steps to improve the protection of vulnerable adults being served in assisted-living and nursing-home settings across Minnesota.
Admittedly, as a former “high-ranking official” of the Minnesota Department of Health (the former manager who helped create the Home Care and Assisted Living Program that oversees all of the licensed home-care and assisted-living providers in the state), I know there is much work to be done. But to view this session and the improvements included in this omnibus bill as a failure is unfortunate. It is naive and dangerous to actually think that reform of such a ginormous and complex system that serves, protects and supports tens of thousands of vulnerable individuals can and/or should happen overnight or in one session.
I am extremely confident that the work done this session by the many individuals and groups at the table (including providers, advocates, families, state agencies, etc.) is merely the beginning. I cannot stress enough, however, that we must approach the next legislative session(s) with a collaborative spirit. We all want the same thing in the end, and that is for all Minnesotans to live their lives to their fullest, with the highest quality of care possible if they need it, and that they remain safe and happy in the setting where they choose to live.
I now challenge the Star Tribune to use this platform to continue to drive meaningful change and help bring us all together instead of driving us further apart. We can do this together. Let’s do more than sell papers. Let’s impact and improve lives for those whom we care for and care about.
Josh Berg is the senior living executive director at StuartCo, an owner-operator of senior living establishments and affordable apartments. He is also a member of the Elko New Market City Council.