Legislative Auditor Set to Review Programs that Oversee Vulnerable Minnesotans

April 07, 2017 01:03 PM

A legislative commission on Thursday approved several state programs it would like the Legislative Auditor to evaluate, including the health department's Office of Health Facility Complaints and the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem program, both subjects of 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Investigations in November.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor said its evaluation will look into management, governance, oversight and processes of specific program areas.


Complaints Not Investigated On Time

"It's absolutely big and huge, it's wonderful," said Sheila Van Pelt, a senior care advocate. "I think we've had plenty of knowledge to know we are not ahead of it and we just haven't done anything about it, until the media helps us become aware of it, so the Legislature works on behalf of the citizens."

In November, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found state health investigators were not handling a vast majority of cases in a timely manner over several years, as a record number of complaints were logged and staffing shortages caused issues.

The OLA will look into the Office of Health Facility Complaints at the urging of the bipartisan joint Legislative Audit Committee. As an example, the committee would like to know: "To what extent does OHFC process and investigate vulnerable adult complaints in a timely, consistent, and effective manner?"

 “We welcome the opportunity to have the Office of the Legislative Auditor audit our program," said Assistant Minnesota Health Commissioner Gil Acevedo. “We’ve been publicly acknowledging the need for additional resources and improved processes to manage the increasing number of vulnerable adult maltreatment allegations. We believe an OLA report and evaluation will help with our ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our investigation process.“ 

Guardians Ad Litem Review

The Legislative Auditor plans to also review the Guardians ad litem program, which advocates for children and vulnerable adults in the legal system.

According to OLA documents, the state has made frequent changes to the program’s governance, management, and funding over the past 20 years.

“As the GAL board and program staff are committed to continuous improvement in providing services to children, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Legislative Auditor,” a state program spokeswoman wrote in an email to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.  

The OLA plans to review the board’s policies, procedures and program standards while surveying judges, attorneys, and families about their experiences working with those in the program.  

In November, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Katherine Johnson exposed that some children in the system have had their wishes ignored by their guardian ad litem.

RELATED: Guardian ad Litem Board Works to Improve Complaint Process

Since the story aired, KSTP has received countless tips from families who feel their assigned guardian ad litem failed them.

“Despite efforts to improve oversights, concerns remain about the quality of guardian ad litem services,” the OLA wrote to House and Senate members earlier this week.

The OLA program reviews are expected to be completed by January or February.


Eric Chaloux

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