When Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Vulnerable Adults Act this spring, Minnesota finally joined the ranks of all but five states whose laws contain felony provisions for people who intentionally neglect or abuse vulnerable adults. It wasn’t easy getting there. For more than a decade, similar measures were beaten back on the strength of complaints from care providers who worried that honest mistakes would be criminalized.
Much of the credit for building a coalition that eased that opposition goes to Deputy Hennepin County Attorney Dave Brown. Acting as his office’s liaison to the Legislature, Brown helped shepherd the bill to final passage. He began his career with Hennepin County as a law clerk in 1985. He has worked in the child protection, white-collar crime, drugs and appeals divisions.
Iris Freeman, the associate director at the Center for Elder Justice and Policy at William Mitchell College of Law, has pressed the case for a felony neglect law for 17 years. For more than 20 years, Freeman also directed the Advocacy Center for Long-Term Care (now the ElderCare Rights Alliance). She has degrees from Barnard College and the University of Minnesota and has served as staff director of public policy at the Alzheimer’s Association, Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter.