ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota has made great progress in reducing a large backlog of unresolved complaints of maltreatment at state senior care facilities, health officials said.

The state Health Department reduced the number of unresolved maltreatment cases by nearly 80 percent in the last six weeks, the Star Tribune reported . There are now just over 700 cases, down from more than 3,100. Allegations include neglect, financial exploitation, and physical and sexual abuse.

"The fact that this backlog occurred and built up is extremely regrettable," said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who was appointed to lead the agency last month after the previous commissioner resigned. "We do believe that all the attention that's been brought to this, and the concern that's rightfully elevated this as a priority, is serving to get us all focused on building more robust processes."

The agency received more than 25,000 maltreatment reports in 2016, a sevenfold increase since 2010, but investigated about 3 percent of maltreatment complaints on site in 2016.

The agency's Office of Health Facility Complaints is working to streamline the complaint process. The state is testing an automated case records system that will improve the speed complaints are investigated and allow the agency to better categorize complaints.

Staff members are also evaluating cases with a standard list of questions that help determine the type of response needed.

"We are moving through these (complaints) a lot more efficiently — because we now have a very standardized and consistent process," said Gilbert Acevedo, assistant state health commissioner.

The Health Department is also working to give more frequent updates to those who file complaints.

But elder care advocates contend more needs to be done to protect seniors. Senior advocacy organizations are calling for tougher criminal sanctions against abusers, giving families and victims more access to investigation and providing stronger oversight of the assisted-living industry.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com