Today, Governor Dayton signed into effect the Vulnerable Adult Felony bill, which, for the first time, increases the charge for neglect of vulnerable adults to a felony. The bill creates a felony provision in state law that would target caregivers who intentionally deprive vulnerable adults of food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision.
Minnesota has been one of five states that classified such crimes as misdemeanors, with little or no jail time and minimal fines even in cases where vulnerable people were found suffering in squalid conditions. The new law will create a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Healthcare Minnesota, and others in the care industry worried their workers could be punished for honest mistakes or lack of resources, but the compromise reached in the bill creates some protections for workers and facilities. Healthcare Minnesota worked with the County Attorney Association and Representative Gottwalt to make sure that felony neglect in the vulnerable adult bill included an affirmative defense for workers. This defense protects care workers if they can show neglect occurred because of inadequate staffing levels or lack of training. Minnesota will be the only state that includes such language.