APS Open House & Conference – August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014
Adult Protective Services Open House
& “Respect Our Elders” Conference
Bloomington, IN – The Adult Protective Services (APS) program in Monroe County has a new office, and new hopes that investigating reports of abused and neglected seniors will become a higher priority in the State of Indiana.
The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office contracts with the State of Indiana to investigate reports of “endangered adults” through the APS program in Unit 10, which serves a three county area.
Thanks to support from the Monroe County Commissioners, APS Unit 10 recently relocated to a new office in the county government portion of the Showers Building at 501 N. Morton, Suite 215. The public is invited to attend an open house on Thursday, September 4 from 4 to 5:30 pm to visit the new office, and hear from state and local leaders regarding the future of the APS program in Indiana.
Speakers will include:
Chris Gaal, Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney
Yonda Snyder, Director, Indiana Division of Aging
Suzanne O’Malley, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council
Wendy Scott, Director, Adult Protective Services Unit 10
The Open House will also seek to promote a statewide conference entitled “Respect Our Elders: Working Together to Stop Abuse” being held in Indianapolis on September 18. The conference is being organized by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC), and is co-sponsored by the Elder Law Section of the Indiana Bar Association.
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal, who serves on the IPAC committee that organized the conference, says, “We hope to start a discussion that will make public safety issues affecting the elderly a higher priority in Indiana, and eventually lead to better coordination of resources and improved access to services.” Gaal will lead a breakout session at the conference on “Preventing Abuse and Neglect: Community Approaches from Monroe County.”
The conference will also feature a presentation on “Investigation and Prosecution of Elder Abuse” by Paul Greenwood, founder of the Elder Abuse Unit of the San Diego Prosecutor’s Office, that will provide continuing education credits for law enforcement officers.
“We encourage attendance from stakeholders who serve the elderly population, such as local Area Agencies on Aging, law enforcement agencies, elder law attorneys, social service providers, health care professionals, religious organizations, and government policy-makers,” said Suzanne O’Malley of IPAC.
Yonda Snyder, a Bloomington resident, was recently named as the new Director of the Indiana Division of Aging, which oversees APS programs around the state. The National Adult Protective Services Association recently selected Indiana for a technical assistance grant to evaluate protocols and procedures for investigating reports of endangered adults.
For a detailed conference agenda and registration information visit the IPAC website at www.in.gov/ipac/
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Elder Abuse Discussed in Indiana – September 3, 2014
Elder abuse discussed in Ind. By Holly Hays
Indiana Daily Student, September 3, 2014
Of the 39,848 calls for service made to Indiana Adult Protective Services in 2013, 10,000 cases were opened.
Forty-one full-time investigators work throughout the state to answer calls of guardianship and placement issues, questions of financial exploitation and more, said Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal, a member of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council Board of Directors.
Monroe County Adult Protective Services will have an open house 4 p.m. Thursday at the Showers Building, 501 N. Morton, Suite 215.
The open house will promote an upcoming statewide conference, “Respect Our Elders: Working Together to Stop Abuse”, a Sept. 18 event in Indianapolis.
IPAC will be providing funding for the event.
The goal of the event is to raise awareness regarding the needs of adults who cannot care for themselves and to increase APS resources in Monroe County.
“We don’t have adequate resources to meet the needs that are out there”, Gaal said. “We have two investigators. They spend a lot of their time out in the field, driving around, doing home visits.”
The APS program contracts with the local prosecutor’s office to provide the personnel and service for the state, according to the APS website.
According to the IPAC website, endangered adults are defined as individuals who are more than 18 years of age and are incapable of taking care of themselves for reasons of mental illness, mental retardation, dementia, or other mental or physical incapacity.
Despite the low number of investigators in Monroe County, Gaal said the office is ahead of the curve in terms of outreach and programming.
However, Unit 10, which is located in Monroe County, also serves Morgan and Owen Counties.
“There’s a need for greater resources in this area, and that’s the reason why we’re pulling together this conference”, Gaal said.
The conference will feature both local and national speakers and will include a presentation “Investigation and Prosecution of Elder Abuse” by Paul Greenwood of the San Diego Prosecutor’s Office.
The presentation will allow police officers to receive continuing education credits, according to the release.
Gaal will also be leading a break-out session at the conference, “Preventing Abuse and Neglect: Community Approaches in Monroe County”.
There are more than 5.1 million people aged 65 or older with some type of dementia, and, of those, 50 percent experience some sort of abuse, according to statistics provided by Gaal.
Furthermore, about 90 percent of abusers are family members.
Gaal said he hopes to increase awareness of the needs of endangered adults in the community. He said he has already spoken to both local representatives and a senator about the topic.
“It’s something that I’m passionate about”, he said. “It’s got to be addressed”.
Respect Our Elders – September 14, 2014
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal provides Welcoming comments at the Respect Our Elders conference September 18, 2014.
Legislative Committee Hearing – September 16, 2015
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal testifies to the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code about the need to fix Indiana’s Adult Protective Services system.
Time to fix Indiana’s broken Adult Protective Services system – January 24, 2016
Special to the H-T
January 24, 2016
This guest column was written by Chris Gaal, Monroe County prosecuting attorney.
We are aging as a society. Every year the elderly comprise a larger percentage of the overall population. This demographic change has been called the “Silver Tsunami” and will continue to significantly increase demand for public resources for at least the next two decades. But instead of preparing for future impacts that we know are coming, Indiana has failed to keep pace even with the existing needs of our current elderly and developmentally disabled population.
Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates reports of endangered adults threatened with harm as a result of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Many of these cases involve “self-neglect” where an adult is unable to care for themselves due to an age-related incapacity such as dementia, a developmental disability or a serious mental health issue. The typical scenario encountered by APS investigators is often heartbreaking — an isolated person living in squalor, often unkempt, undernourished, sometimes with serious health issues, body sores, bedbugs, trash and personal filth piled up around them. If the investigation reveals that some type of intervention is required, APS can begin any necessary legal action and refer the person to appropriate services, which may include anything from supportive in-home assistance to placement into a residential care facility.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s APS system is overworked, understaffed and underfunded. In 2013 there were nearly 40,000 reports of potentially endangered adults. APS opened over 10,000 cases. All of these calls for service and cases opened for investigation, in all 92 Indiana counties, were handled by only 27.5 investigators and 17 directors. Each investigator is thus responsible for large geographic regions that include several different counties — often triaging emergencies over the phone. Indiana’s APS program staffs one investigator for every 941 reports in a year. For purposes of comparison, the Indiana Department of Child Services caseload standards require no more than 144 reports per caseworker.
APS investigators are good people who are trying to do the best job they can to protect endangered adults. But due to inadequate staffing and resources, they are simply unable to keep pace with the overwhelming demand for services. As a result, many of Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens continue to fall through the cracks.
Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) contracts with local Indiana prosecutors to provide the Adult Protective Services (APS) program. For the past two years Indiana prosecutors, through the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC), have been sounding the alarm on the need for additional resources to properly fix a broken APS system by increasing the number of investigators.
Fixing Indiana’s APS program requires meaningful leadership and immediate action. Unfortunately, these have been lacking. So far, action has been deferred in favor of a lengthy process to continue studying the issue — with the administration suggesting greater centralization, uniform protocols and additional training. These proposals distract from the obvious fact that the system cannot be improved without first adding additional staff to do the necessary work of investigating cases in the field.
The budget for the entire Indiana APS program is currently about half of what Marion County spends on animal control. Funding for APS comes from the Family and Social Services Administration budget. Instead of requesting additional funds for APS in its most recent budget, FSSA actually returned over $37 million in unspent funds.
Thanks to an investigative report recently featured in the Indianapolis Star, the APS funding issue is now widespread public knowledge. Thanks to the media spotlight, legislative pressure to take quick action to properly fund APS is coming from both prominent Republican and Democratic leaders. Senator Lanane called the modest amount of money it would take to fix APS “chump change” given Indiana’s $2 billion surplus, and said the legislature should not wait to find the money.
Now that the issue has gotten needed attention, there is hope that genuine progress will soon be made.
Herald-Times Editorial Staff: State should work to protect older Hoosiers – January 24, 2016
January 24, 2016
Monroe County took a step last fall toward protecting older adults. Now, the state needs to follow suit.
The Volunteer Advocate for Seniors or Incapacitated Adults program was launched in Monroe County as a partnership between the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office and the Area 10 Agency on Aging. It provides the same kind of services for seniors that the Court Appointed Special Advocate program provides for children. It helps adult clients navigate complex issues, such as the legal system, and looks out for their interests. Adults who lack the capacity to make decision for themselves and have no surviving family members to help them certainly need the help.
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal’s office oversees the Adult Protective Services program in Monroe County, and he’s seen problems facing this population firsthand. He’s watching the Legislature closely to see if it’s willing to take these problems seriously.
Gaal wrote a guest column about this issue that’s on page E6 in today’s newspaper. He’s optimistic because of recent media coverage that has shown how underfunded the state’s Adult Protective Services program is and the abuse and neglect that results from the lack of support.
As Gaal noted, the APS receives far more calls of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly Hoosiers than the agency can possibly investigate. Other states do far better by their vulnerable older population than does Indiana.
The issue is gaining some traction at the Statehouse.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, called the issues outlined in stories in the Indianapolis Star “tremendously concerning” and if true, “the state needs to correct this problem as quickly and decisively as possible.”
Senate Minority Floor Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, has also said he thinks the APS system is in serious need of an overhaul.
The two parties need to come together to show Indiana cares about these vulnerable citizens, and Gov. Mike Pence should join them. The equivalent of 30 full-time investigators can’t come close to keeping up with roughly 40,000 complaints about the abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly people who can’t take care of themselves. One place to start is by funding three or four times the number of caseworkers to look into complaints.
Beyond that, the Legislature could fund volunteer coordinators for regions of the state, if not every county, to start and operate programs similar to the program launched in Monroe County.
A quote from Hubert H. Humphrey, former vice president of the United States, applies here: “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Legislators should use that as a guide this year in providing additional support for Adult Protective Services.
Herald-Times Editorial Staff: Vulnerable adults deserve more than a study – January 31, 2016
Vulnerable adults deserve more than a study
Sunday, January 31, 2016 2:00 am
The needs of some of Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens were kicked like a can down the road last week by some members of the General Assembly.
The Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed Senate Bill 192, which requires two state agencies to study the state’s Adult Protective Services program to determine how much funding and staffing it needs.
That means, until this critical issue is studied more, elderly Hoosiers who can’t take care of themselves won’t get the kind of care they should.
The equivalent of 30 full-time investigators are responsible for 40,000 APS cases filed each year in the state. There’s no way for investigators to keep up with the cases filed, so visits don’t occur, records aren’t kept properly and adults in need of services are left in dangerous situations.
Supporters of the committee’s decision would say this is a victory on the APS issue because the issue has been acknowledged and help could well be forthcoming. But they’re not in the trenches.
Adult Protective Services workers throughout the state have said they are desperate for help now. They simply can’t investigate the flood of reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation against men and women, many who are elderly. These men and women often have mental illness, dementia, or developmental or physical disabilities and no relatives or friends to make sure they are treated with proper care and dignity. Investigators don’t have the opportunity to take appropriate legal action or make sure endangered adults get proper care and protection.
An immediate remedy would have shown real leadership. Instead, we get a lengthy process from our lawmakers to study a dilemma facing Hoosiers now.
The Senate bill orders the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council to study the issue and report to the State Budget Agency by Dec. 1. Handily for our politicians, that’s after the next election. Then a solution could be considered in the next session, a year from now.
One of the state’s few APS investigators, Brenda Defler, was harsh in her criticism of the committee decision in a quote published by the Indianapolis Star.
“How long do we need to study it?” she asked. “How many more cases fall through the cracks? They know it’s a problem. They just don’t care. What if it was their mom or their dad or their grandma? In my eyes, them just continuing to study it and push it under the rug, that is saying they don’t care.”
The author of the bill, Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, told the Star the bill is a “good step forward.”
From here, it just looks like a timid step sideways.
Herald-Times: New emergency funding to add local investigator of adult abuse and neglect – February 26, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
By Lauren Slavin
Monroe County prosecuting attorney Chris Gaal hopes that emergency funding of $1.1 million for Indiana Adult Protective Services will allow for another full-time investigator to join the unit that handles reports of adult abuse and neglect in Monroe, Owen and Morgan counties.
Gov. Mike Pence’s office allocated the $1.1 million following media reports that the Family and Social Services Administration program was unable to fully investigate 40,000 annual reports of abuse and neglect and 10,000 cases that result after those reports. Only 30 investigators work statewide to explore such reports, including two who work out of Gaal’s office in Monroe County and handle 80 to 110 active cases a month.
“Those numbers just speak for themselves,” Gaal said. “You can’t improve the system without first adding additional staff to do the necessary work of investigating those cases in the field.”
In addition to the funding, a bill that passed in the House this week to create a committee to study the staffing and financial needs of Indiana Adult Protective Service is now headed to the Senate floor. APS intervenes on behalf of physically or mentally incapacitated adult victims of abuse and neglect.
“The elderly population just keeps growing,” Gaal said. “We need to meet our future needs, and were not even keeping up with current needs.”
Herald-Times Our Opinion: Adult Protective Services funding a step toward caring for vulnerable – March 1, 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Herald Times, Editorial staff
State officials have taken a step forward in protecting Indiana’s most vulnerable adults.
Gov. Mike Pence’s office announced last week that $1.1 million would be allocated to Indiana Adult Protective Services, which investigates cases in which adults have dementia, mental illnesses or physical disabilities. These Hoosiers often don’t have family members to take care of them and are at risk of being preyed upon by unscrupulous people who are more interested in their money than their care.
Media reports helped expose the problems faced by the agency and thus the people it served. Only the equivalent of 30 full-time investigators are being paid to look into about 10,000 cases of the 40,000 annual reports of abuse and neglect that come into the administration. Two of the investigators work in Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal’s office and handle between 80 and 110 cases a month.
Gaal said the additional funding will help.
“You can’t improve the system without first adding additional staff to do the necessary work of investigating those cases in the field,” he said.
This funding will add an estimated 18 full-time investigators, but the huge numbers of reports suggest that still won’t be enough to protect those in dramatic need. Lawmakers seem to be aware of that and a bill is moving through the General Assembly that would create a study committee to try to determine what level of staffing and funding would be appropriate to address the issue.
Hopefully, that committee will be able to recognize what the next steps should be in providing security and protection to these adults in need.
“You can’t improve the system without first adding additional staff to do the necessary work of investigating those cases in the field,” Chris Gaal, Monroe County prosecutor, said.
Emergency Relief Arrives For Adult Protective Services – June 16, 2016
Bloomington, IN —Indiana’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program has been surrounded by a storm of controversy this past year. In January, the Indianapolis Star ran a series of articles highlighting how Indiana’s APS system was overworked, understaffed and underfunded. The coverage included dramatic stories of vulnerable citizens who had fallen through the cracks of a broken system that lacked adequate resources and services to meet the needs of endangered adults.
For years APS investigators had been sounding the alarm and expressing overwhelming frustration. For a long while it seemed nothing would change. But following the publicity of the Star investigation, people all over the state began to pay closer attention. The legislature soon decided it was an issue that needed to be addressed. An emergency funding bill was passed to provide an additional investigator to each APS hub by July. The legislature also created a process to study further improvements to Indiana’s APS system, with recommendations due by December.
Reinforcements have now arrived. Monroe Prosecuting Attorney Chris Gaal today announced that his office has hired an additional APS investigator with the new emergency funding. APS Unit 10 is housed in the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office and serves the three counties of Monroe, Owen and Morgan.
“Increasing the number of APS investigators is an important and necessary first step toward improving Indiana’s broken system for protecting endangered adults,” said Gaal, who has been active in raising concerns about APS through the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC).
The addition of another investigator could not come too soon for APS Unit 10 Director Wendy Scott. “Now our workloads can begin to approach something reasonable and we can provide more care and attention to our cases,” said Scott.
The new investigator brings a unique set of skills and strong interest in serving vulnerable populations.
Claudio Perez is a bilingual English-Spanish speaker, who most recently worked as a Family Case Manager with the Department of Child Services. He has experience investigating reports of abuse and neglect in cases involving children – and can now apply many of the same skills for adults. He has also held positions in the fields of education, social services, and serving the developmentally disabled population. He has a Masters in Theological Studies from Notre Dame, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami.
“I have committed myself to serving vulnerable children in the past and now I look forward to serving vulnerable adults,” said Perez. “I appreciate the opportunity to make a difference and help an area of society that is in desperate need of assistance.”