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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
Glen Stubbe - Star Tribune file  St. Therese of New Hope was the site last year of one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state.

Whistleblower accuses Minnesota nursing home of violating COVID-19 health regulations

A former administrator at St. Therese of New Hope alleges she was fired for speaking out about the violations.
The Minnesota Council on Disability plans to boycott the Minnesota State Fair over the absence of mask mandates and other safety measures that would h

Minnesota disability agency to boycott State Fair over lack of mask and vaccine mandates

The Minnesota Council on Disability says its safety concerns have been ignored.
Residents at the Jones-Harrison Senior Living complex participated in Chaplain Chat, a three-times-a month gathering with Chaplain Monica Powers where

'Lives will be saved': New protections for Minnesota seniors in assisted living go into effect

Nearly 55,000 seniors in assisted living gain sweeping protections.
Family members of detainees at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program gathered on Sunday near the treatment center in Moose Lake. Carlos Taylor comforted

Hunger strike takes toll on detainees at Minn. sex offender treatment center

Three detainees have been hospitalized since the strike began a week ago.
Mary Jo Brambrink shredded paper at Options in Big Lake, where despite the low pay, some find a sense of purpose.

Minnesota to phase out unequal pay jobs for people with disabilities

Move could affect 8,000 employees in Minnesota's sheltered workshops.
Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, an advocate for social justice causes and co-founder of the Mapping Prejudice Project, died last week of unknown causes. He was

Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, social justice activist and co-founder of Mapping Prejudice Project, dies at 33

Ehrman-Solberg excelled at digital mapmaking.
Swimmers flocked to Lake Nokomis has the heat soared in the Twin Cities last July. Water-related incidents claimed three lives and left one seriously

Four drown, 2-year-old hurt in Minnesota lakes, rivers over weekend

On Sunday evening, a 9-year-old was reported missing at Carver Lake Park Beach in Woodbury. A police officer dove into the lake and found the child, who was later pronounced dead.
Janice L. Lindstrom spent much of her adult life pushing for stronger protections for American Indian children. She died on May 7 of cancer at age 75.

Janice L. Lindstrom, champion for American Indian legal rights and family preservation, dies at 75

Lindstrom helped tribes and counties across the nation to develop programs to ensure that federal law was followed and Indian children were not forcibly removed.
Zach and Stephanie Nichols, parents of Ronan, 8, said he will be coming home to a renovated room.

Minnesota kids languish in ERs while waiting for psych beds

Parents of children as young as 7 or 8 describe agonizing waits in emergency departments that are not equipped to treat people with serious mental illness and where prolonged stays can be traumatic.
Ageane Reed, center, an office manager at Oak Meadows Senior Living in Oakdale, is coming around to feeling safe about the vaccine.

Many Minnesota nursing home workers still refuse vaccines

Facilities are ramping up efforts to persuade workers to embrace the vaccines.
Michael Elder, who faced obstacles securing vaccine, celebrated with a social media post after receiving an initial dose of the Pfizer drug at the Sta

State bets big on fairgrounds in push to inoculate hardest-hit

Thousands of Twin Cities residents are benefiting from a highly coordinated campaign to expand COVID-19 vaccinations to minority communities hardest hit by the pandemic. At the center of the initiative is the State Fairgrounds.
Chris Runyon, who gave the Moderna vaccine to Michael Christy at United Labor Center, is determined not to throw out any doses

'You can feel the joy': One nurse's race to vaccinate as many Minnesotans as she can

"It's like we're all on the Titanic and trying to get everyone we can on the lifeboats as fast as we possibly can," said Chris Runyon, who works for Hennepin Healthcare.
A psychologist who worked at this state-run sex offender treatment facility in Moose Lake has been charged with sexually assaulting two men who have b

Psychologist at Minnesota sex offender program charged with sexually assaulting two clients

Minn. Sex Offender Program psychologist assaulted two male clients, charges say.
At the playground at her mother’s apartment complex, Janesha Anderson watches her son Jermel, 7, play. She has struggled to meet the cumbersome pape

Walz aims to cut red tape, boost welfare benefits for poor families

The measures being considered at the State Capitol are designed to reduce stress and provide some income stability.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead addressed members of the Legislative Audit Commission in 2019 over regulatory breakdowns that led to overpa

Legislative Auditor finds shoddy oversight of grants at DHS

Report issued Monday cites mismanagement, legal violations in grants awarded by Behavioral Health Division from 2017 to 2020.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead.

Despite hurdles, Minnesota DHS chief continues push to clean up agency's financial mess

Auditor report Monday is expected to reveal new oversight failures.
James Allison, 49, an eight year veteran with the Marine Corps, received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday at the Minneapolis VA.

VA outreach puts Minnesota veterans on vaccine fast track

Nearly 40% of the patient population of the Minneapolis and St. Cloud VA health systems has received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine — a rate that has far outpaced the rest of the state.
Rick Cardenas, a pioneering advocate for people with disabilities, died on March 10 of complications related to a strike. He was 79.

Rick Cardenas: Tireless champion for Minnesotans with disabilities

Rick Cardenas, a towering figure in Minnesota's disability rights community, whose decades of relentless advocacy helped redefine how many Minnesotans think of people with disabilities,…
Keyana Johnson was 21 years old and pregnant when she “aged out” of the foster care system. Here, Johnson started her day with her children Stepho

Minnesota extends lifeline to foster youth hit by pandemic

Gov. Tim Walz's administration earlier this month imposed a moratorium on youth being discharged from foster care through September, while allowing those who aged out during the pandemic to return to care.
Brenna White, a nurse with Ridgeview Medical Center, prepared to vaccinate Lois Gatz, 90, with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in Gatz

Minnesota agencies launch efforts to vaccinate homebound seniors

Home care nurses are going door-to-door to deliver vaccines to homebound seniors.
A year ago, Douglas Pyle was trapped in a downward spiral of homelessness and substance abuse. Now he has his own apartment and his addiction is in ch

'We saved lives': How isolating Minnesota's homeless kept them safe from COVID-19

Statewide effort to house homeless likely saved lives and also brought stability.
Victoria Conrad opened her arms to do a distant hug with her 99-year old father Howard Seitzer as they met for their first face-to-face visit since th

Minnesota rolls back restrictions on senior home visits as COVID-19 cases decline

Many homes had placed strict limits on visitation nearly a year ago as the virus spread across the state.
Rosie Eberhard, a Oak Meadows Senior Home resident, filled out puzzles as she and other ladies sat near the entrance of the Oakdale senior home in Feb

Minnesota senior homes slow to lift lockdowns on family visits

New federal guidelines are likely to increase pressure on senior homes to reopen.
Sam Corbett, 38, who has Down syndrome, went to North Dakota this week with his mom, Heidi Randolph of Richfield, to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Thousands of Minnesotans cross state lines for COVID-19 vaccine

Uncertainty about when COVID-19 vaccine shots will be available has given rise to a booming new form of travel, known as "vaccine tourism." More than 15,000 Minnesotans have left the state to get vaccines elsewhere.
Wally Emery, left, who serves meals at Oak Meadows Senior Home in Oakdale, gave resident Donna Chapp a welcome hug.

COVID-19 vaccines bring joy back to Minn. senior homes

A dramatic plunge in new coronavirus cases, combined with an aggressive rollout of vaccines, has injected new life into senior communities.
More than 730 sex offenders are confined at secure treatment centers like this one in St. Peter, Minn. ORG XMIT: MIN1701051450030487

Case challenging constitutionality of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program can move forward

A federal court in St. Paul will review whether the program is "unconstitutionally punitive."
‘Inspiring and disheartening’: In trying to get her parents vaccinated, Maura Caldwell waited in line with them for hours, hoping for leftover dos

'Like the Hunger Games': Minn. vaccine hunters chase doses via social media

"Vaccine chasers" pool their intel on Facebook, with tips on where to get the shots on short notice
Gov. Tim Walz had his temperature checked as he entered the Jones-Harrison Residence nursing home in south Minneapolis Tuesday, to highlight the state

COVID-19 cases plunge at Minnesota senior homes as vaccinations ramp up

State health officials say there are promising signs the COVID-19 vaccine is reducing infections.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, would shield health care providers from a wide range of lawsuits and government sanctions

Minnesota bill would shield health care providers from COVID-related lawsuits

The bill already has aroused strong passions and sets the stage for a showdown this legislative session.
A dozen men held at this sex offender treatment center in Moose Lake ended a 14-day hunger strike after state officials agreed to meet with the men an

Sex offenders at Moose Lake end 14-day hunger strike after reaching deal with state officials

DHS officials promised to meet with the sex offenders and explore changes to the state program.
Suzy Lindeberg of West Lakeland Township has been trying to get vaccine for her son John, 20, who has Down syndrome.

People with disabilities push for inclusion in Minn. vaccine plan

Advocates say Minnesota's vaccine plan discriminates against vulnerable populations who live on their own: "We feel forgotten."
Robert Gill, seen with his mother Patricia Gill-Eagle on the Lake Traverse Reservation, has made it his mission to “decolonize” Native burials.

Minn. man on a mission to keep Native burial customs alive

The burial customs and ceremonies that many Indigenous communities have cherished for generations are under pressure from an unforeseen enemy — COVID-19.
At least 11 sex offenders held at the state treatment center in Moose Lake have launched a hunger strike to protest conditions and the low rate of rel

Sex offenders at Moose Lake launch hunger strike

The hunger strike is an escalation of a weekslong protest over long confinements.
The razor wire that surrounds the state-operated sex offender treatment center in Moose Lake. Offenders have been protesting what they see as unsafe c

Sex offenders at Moose Lake protest after rash of COVID deaths

A large outbreak of the virus has fueled long-simmering tensions over civil liberties at the state program.
Oak Meadows Senior Living’s Arlene Studerman got a shot, but about half of workers refused over side-effect fears. 

Many Minnesota senior home workers wary of vaccine shots

Long-term care facilities are reporting that 30% to 60% of their employees are refusing to take the initial doses of vaccines. Many are reluctant until they see more evidence that people aren't suffering serious side effects and that the shots are working.
Nikki Farago, interim deputy commissioner at the Department of Human Services, said the state has been stepping up efforts to reach at-risk children a

Minnesota child abuse reports plunge during coronavirus pandemic, worrying authorities

The steep decline could be a sign that abuse is going unnoticed behind closed doors.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state’s distribution of coronavirus vaccines is dependent on allocations from the federal government. The s

Frustrations build over COVID-19 vaccine delays in Minn. nursing homes

A prominent lawmaker called the pace of the vaccine rollout "unconscionably slow."
The death of husband and wife Jesse “Jay” and Cheryl Taken Alive delivered a major blow to the clan and the Standing Rock Tribe. They were buried

As deaths mount, Standing Rock charts its own path against virus

Tight-knit and remote, the Standing Rock Reservation is a hot spot of virus, inequity and grief.
First doses of coronavirus vaccine arrive at state's nursing homes

First doses of coronavirus vaccine arrive at state's nursing homes

The vaccines arrive at critical time for nursing homes struggling with a rash of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Nurse Michelle Smith on the deck of her Rochester apartment. She had a rare day off after working a 16-hour double shift at a at a long-term care cent

'It was a godsend': New Minnesota hiring program helps care homes

The initiative has provided urgent staffing relief to more than 140 care facilities across Minnesota.
“I will never again assume that a place that calls itself a ‘care center’ will be committed to caring for its patients,” Laura McCawley said a

How a Minnesota nursing home fell into a COVID-19 black hole

As COVID-19 raced across the U.S., elderly residents in long-term care faced the gravest peril. But little was done, and the virus savaged care centers plagued for years by poor infection control and lax oversight.
Personal caregiver Debra Howze and her 101-year-old client, Polly Mann, both recently recovered from COVID-19.

Minnesota senior homes battle staffing woes as COVID-19 rages

New COVID-19 cases in long-term care soared 400% in October and November.
Avivo outreach navigators Justin LaBeaux, left, and Halie Gudmonson, right, checked in with Skiyy Bailey, center, who they has helped secure housing i

With deadline looming, Minnesota has yet to distribute millions in federal housing relief

Struggling homeowners and renters have until Dec. 7 to apply for relief.
Katherine Berg with husband Brian Berg and grandkids Cullen Beeler, 8, and Laney Beeler, 5, blew a kiss to her mom, 99-year-old Eleanor Murray, who is

Resurgent COVID-19 is racing through Minn. senior homes

The latest wave of infections is hitting many smaller, rural facilities with staffing shortages.
Lynda Lange took her mother MaryAnn Falk, 85, out for a walk around the McKenna Crossing Assisted Living facility in Prior Lake.

'My heart aches': Minn. seniors brace for lonely holiday season

For the past five decades, MaryAnn Falk has been the guiding force behind her family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration. The former factory worker from New Ulm,…
Kilray Beaumont, 59, gets ready to drop off absentee ballot requests as well early voting ballots at the Minneapolis Early Vote Center. In the backgro

Minnesota senior home residents struggle to vote amid the pandemic, lockdown rules

COVID-19 has created new barriers to voting for seniors who live in care facilities.
A Minnesota National Guardsman wore medical gloves to a free testing event at the Minneapolis Armory in May.

Minnesota Guard called in for virus outbreaks at two nursing homes

The emergency deployments to the Austin and Hibbing facilities reflect a severe staffing shortage amplified by the pandemic.
Carla Gillespie with her son Dylan visited her mother, Evelyn Solberg at the Jones-Harrison Residence on Monday, Oct. 12. It was the first time famili

State lifts curbs on indoor visits to senior homes, but urges caution

Lifting of the lockdown poses fresh challenges for many of Minnesota's 2,100 long-term care facilities, which are struggling to keep the virus at bay amid a troubling increase in cases across the region.
A swab containing a mid-nasal sample from a Jones-Harrison Residence staffer was sealed in a vial before being sent to the Mayo Clinic for evaluation

Minnesota starts COVID-19 tests for nursing home inspectors

The state Department of Health ordered the testing last week after the Star Tribune reported that the agency had been sending inspectors into nursing homes and assisted-living centers without first checking them for the virus.
Kay Foley, 88, left, and her daughter Chris Coverdale blew kisses to each other after an outdoor visit in July at Jones-Harrison nursing home. Some fa

Spike in virus cases keeps Minn. families out of senior homes

Some of the state's largest nursing homes and assisted-living communities have yet to open their doors to visits by family members and outside caregivers, despite new state guidelines.
Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead at a state Senate hearing last year.

Minnesota DHS to cut spending, impose layoffs to close shortfall

The state's largest agency is shifting away from operating group homes. The budget cuts were disclosed in a memo to state employees.
Nurse Julia Marek peeled a bar coded label off the hand of Rose Mogi before obtaining a mid-nasal sample from her during routine weekly testing for CO

Hundreds of Minnesota nursing homes to receive rapid testing kits

The devices, also known as "point-of-care" tests, should help nursing homes move more quickly to treat infected residents and staffers, as well as isolate them sooner before they spread the virus to others.
Julia Marek, a registered nurse, opened the wrapper on a fresh swab before obtaining a nasal sample from another staffer at the Jones-Harrison Residen

As cases surge, nursing home inspectors not routinely tested

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the agency intends to start testing staffers who visit long-term care facilities.
Chris Hamby.

Review: 'Soul Full of Coal Dust,' by Chris Hamby

NONFICTION: A New York Times reporter exposes how mining companies and their lawyers rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners sickened with black lung.
Julia Marek obtained a midnasal sample from Rose Mogi during routine weekly testing for COVID-19 at the Jones-Harrison Residence.

Minnesota senior homes struggle with virus test backlogs, delays

Testing supplies have not kept up with surging demand, putting greater pressure on an already stretched system,
The St. Therese nursing home in New Hope.

Minnesota issues strict new guidance for visits to senior care facilities

Faced with an alarming resurgence of the coronavirus in senior living facilities, state health officials are recommending strict new guidelines around when and how these facilities should further open their doors to outside visitors.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.

State's COVID cases increasing among long-term care residents

Since early July, the weekly number of new infections among long-term care residents has nearly tripled, with 172 new cases last week.
Tony Vang, left, with nonprofit People Incorporated, handed out new socks to Tou Vang in an encampment in eastern St. Paul.

Minnesota launches pioneering Medicaid program to combat homelessness

Minnesota becomes the first state to offer housing support services in its basic Medicaid health plan.
Kay Foley, 88, left, and her daughter Chris Coverdale blew kisses to each other after an outdoor visit at Jones-Harrison nursing home.

Minn. officials encouraged as long-term care deaths drop tenfold

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also cautioned that the virus still presents challenges.
Gladys Falk, left, with her daughter Candace Falk during a visit to her senior home. Gladys Falk died COVID-19 on June 2.

Stronger senior care protections sought across Minnesota

As lawmakers reconvene this week for a special session, elder care advocates and families are renewing their push for new consumer safeguards to protect thousands of seniors who live in lightly regulated assisted- living facilities.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead

Minnesota reopens adult day centers for people with disabilities

Many programs have struggled financially during pandemic.
Victoria Conrad got to spend an hour with her 99-year old father, Howard Seitzer, at Oak Meadows Senior Living in Oakdale on June 18, when outdoor vis

Minnesota will let some family members inside senior homes

For the first time in four months, families will be allowed to visit their loved ones inside senior care homes, as Minnesota health authorities cautiously lift lockdown restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus among vulnerable older adults.
A hospital worker held a bottle of disinfectant outside the North Ridge Health and Rehab nursing home in New Hope, Minn. The nursing home previously e

Complaints of evictions in Minn. senior care homes up nearly 30% during pandemic

They are the top reported grievance to the ombudsman's office, with 150 complaints lodged between March 1 and the end of June, records show.
A woman who worked as a caregiver at a senior home near St. Cloud was subjected to racial harassment and abuse by a resident at the facility and then

Minnesota senior living facility settles charges of racial bias

A care worker was subjected to epithets, according to a legal settlement announced Tuesday by the state Department of Human Rights.
“Our entire disabilities services sector is on the verge of collapse,” warned Sen. Jim Abeler, chairman of the Human Services Reform Finance and P

Virus leaves disability service providers on brink of collapse

Dozens of centers have been forced to close temporarily since March, and after months of layoffs and furloughs, there are growing fears that this often-overlooked piece of the social safety net may collapse.
Victoria Conrad greeted her 99-year old father, Howard Seitzer, as they had their first face-to-face visit since the COVID-19 pandemic closed off Oak

For first time in months, nursing home residents able to visit with loved ones

State health officials are seeking to balance the risk of infection with ills caused by prolonged isolation.
Danielle Jin visited her mother, Juan Zhu, at an assisted-living facility in Vadnais Heights. Jin must talk to her mother at the window because the fa

Minnesota allows window visits at long-term care facilities

Since late March, visitors have been all but banned from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state. "It has been utterly heartbreaking," said Jean Peters, a nurse and president of Elder Voice Family Advocates. "People are literally dying of loneliness."
After Dennis Barrow was evicted earlier in the week from a former Sheraton hotel that had been turned into a shelter, he pitched a tent at Powderhorn

Minneapolis homeless forced out of a hotel face uncertain future

New written notices warned a camp in Powderhorn Park would be dismantled within 72 hours, but the Park Board rescinds its order, averting a standoff.
Keke Caston used a shopping cart to evacuate from the Sheraton shelter off Lake Street Tuesday. “We have nowhere to go,” she said. “We’re goin

Homeless evicted from former Mpls. hotel after drug overdose

The sudden evacuation marks the second time in recent weeks that large numbers of homeless people have been forced to leave a temporary site.
A North Memorial transport worker held a bottle of disinfectant outside North Ridge Health and Rehabilitation, which has seen 57 COVID-19 deaths.

Stark data shows impact of COVID on state's nursing homes

Residents and staff of Minnesota's nursing homes are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, accounting for two-thirds of all deaths in long-term care.
Jeff Johnson and his mother, Kathy Johnson, during a recent visit with his father, Michael Johnson, at the North Ridge Health and Rehab nursing home i

Feds: More than half of Minnesota nursing homes have COVID-19 cases

Six of the state's nursing homes have lost more than 50 residents to the coronavirus.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, left, and state Sen. Karin Housley.

Housley threatens to subpoena health agency over COVID-19 nursing home data

Sen. Karin Housley said the agency has denied or ignored multiple requests for information vital to those in senior care facilities and their families.
Family members of nursing home residents held a vigil last Tuesday outside the governor's residence to protest the discharges of COVID-19 patients fro

Minnesota lawmakers and advocates call for end to 'virus pipeline' to elder care

At a Senate committee hearing, state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm defended the practice.
Sauer Health Care is one of the Minnesota nursing homes with outbreaks of COVID-19 that have been cited by the state for infection-control violations

Minnesota ramps up COVID-19 testing in nursing homes

More than 10,000 residents and staff of long-term care facilities have been tested.
Staff and volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland, the state's largest food bank, filled emergency food kits in response to the coronavirus at its ware

Extra food assistance extended to 350,000 poor Minnesota children

The benefit will help alleviate hunger among poor children in the summer months.