With nearly 30,000 complaints lodged last year, Pennsylvania is taking steps to improve the performance of county agencies that are not making the grade to protect seniors.
As a result of failing to meet regulations of addressing complaints about elder abuse investigations, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging is putting county agencies on notice. They will now be graded on a stringent basis. If they continue to perform poorly, they may have their cases pulled and assigned elsewhere.
As US News recently reported in “Pennsylvania Pushes Counties to Improve Elder-Abuse Casework,” some of the issues identified by state inspectors included failures to show investigations had started within the timeframe required by state law and inadequately investigating a complaint and logging the casework.
The Department of Aging inspects the performance of 52 county-level agencies tasked with fielding and responding to complaints that can involve physical abuse, self-neglect, or financial exploitation. These problems have raised questions from state inspectors as to whether people were left in danger. Their warnings have included orders to immediately investigate a complaint.
A county could now have just four months to improve its protective services for people who are 60 and older, before it loses the responsibility. If a county agency doesn’t get the job done, Pennsylvania reserves the right to take over the task, or fire it and hire some other agency. It’s never done that.
Pennsylvania's caseworkers handled 29,000 calls about potential elder abuse in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to department records. The call volume has tripled in recent years and is expected to continue rising, as Pennsylvania ages.
Some county officials believe the measurements can be subjective, and that protective services can improve with training and additional staff. County officials sometimes blame turnover or staffing issues and claim that violations can be just a failure to enter information into a state-monitored database, rather than a total failure to properly investigate.
With the new protocol, counties will be graded by color. Green indicates good, yellow for significant or repeat problems and red for significant or repetitive problems that put seniors at risk.
It should be noted that state funding has remained flat for more than a decade, even as protective service demands grow and complete for funding with other agencies that also serve seniors in need.
Reference: US News (December 16, 2017) “Pennsylvania Pushes Counties to Improve Elder-Abuse Casework”