Data gaps hamper elderly-abuse review in Vt.By DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press | January 26,2013MONTPELIER — Vermont has made big progress in clearing up a backlog of investigations into reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elderly and other vulnerable adults, according to both critics and defenders of the state’s Adult Protective Services system.
But there’s concern among some lawmakers and advocates that the division of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living may be clearing the backlog, in part, by being too selective in taking new cases.
And the department’s commissioner acknowledged in an interview and in testimony to the House Human Services Committee that there are big gaps in the data used by lawmakers trying to measure the division’s performance.
The House Human Services Committee heard testimony Thursday that APS failed to intervene in a Bennington County case of an 89-year-old woman whose daughter was threatening to kill her.
Sandy Conrad, executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Area Agency on Aging, said repeated calls from her office to APS beginning at 1:13 p.m. on a Friday in November drew no response until the following Monday. After a cursory review, APS sent a letter to Conrad’s agency saying, “The available evidence indicated that abuse, neglect or exploitation did not occur,” she told the committee.
Despite appeals to more senior APS staff, there’s been “nothing to date that changes this decision,” Conrad said. “And that perpetrator still lives in that household and is still a threat to that situation.”
The daughter wanted her mother to go to a nursing home, to get her “out of the way because she wanted her partner’s mother to be able to come down and live with them,” Conrad added.
Conrad’s organization is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the state 13 months ago alleging that cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly and disabled Vermonters were being allowed to languish for months before being investigated by APS.
She and Vermont Legal Aid lawyer Barbara Prine said the state had hired more investigators, created a financial fraud unit in the division and taken other steps to clear up the backlog.
But they said the division rejects far too many cases that should be investigated.
“We feel like more and more calls are being screened out, even though we’ve got the investigators,” Conrad said.
One result, she added, is that “there’s not a backlog and it’s all looking way better.”
Prine said Vermont has one of the lowest rates in the country of cases being “substantiated” — found credible — by state investigators. Depending on how the rate is counted, “It’s either 7 percent or 14 percent, when the national average is 44 percent,” Prine said. “There’s no reason to believe that in Vermont we are abusing people at one-quarter the national average.”
Susan Wehry, commissioner of the department that includes APS, told the committee that the division had “made great strides in 2012.”
“Many in the community will agree that our investigators are not only doing a bang-up job of investigation but also in building the kinds of networks and communication, participation and local coalitions around elder justice to really improve the whole network of adult protective services,” she said.MORE IN This Just InA business development study recommends replacing "shop locally" with "you can find it here." Full StorySaturday's women's basketball game between College of St. Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1927, striking Colo. miners attacked with machine guns by state police; 1877, Thomas Edison announces invention of the phonograph, 1959, Alan Freed fired by WABC 770 AM for accepting payola to promote records.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers short speech in Gettysburg, Pa.; in 1984, a Pemex LNG facility destroyed by series of gas explosions, 600 people are killed; in 1998, Senate builds fire under Bill Clinton.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1831 – Independent South American super-state, Gran Colombia, dissolved; 1856 - Fort Buchanan built to control Apache warriors; 1970 - William Calley Jr. goes on trial after 1968 massacre at My Lai, Vietnam.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy takes advantage of Cold War jitters and builds a tidy little fiefdom for himself on Capitol Hill. It's all good, but pride goes before you know darn well what. The junior senator is damaged going down.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1927, Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin in control of the Soviet Union; in 1970, Oregon DOT tries to dynamite a dead whale off a beach with a rather shocking result.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: In 1972, Southern Airways Flight 49 is hijacked, the crew and passengers held for ransom. The hijackers want $10 million and passage to Cuba. In 2007, in Santiago, Chile, King Juan Carlos of Spain loses patience with Hugo Chavez.