The Arizona the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council- expands resources through planning for folks with developmental disabilities and their families. The Council advocates for folks of all ages to achieve the highest possible level of independence while being included in the life of the surrounding community.  

This week they released an important (and candid) report entitled “Abused and Neglected: A Roadmap for Improving Arizona’s Adult Protective Services.  It’s a thoughtful report that identifies key shortcomings of the current Adult Protective Services system and provides some common-sense recommendations to improve the current system.  It’s only 24 pages long so don’t pass on reading it because you thought it would be too lengthy!  Here are some of the conclusions and recommendations:

  • APS should complete an outside audit of its operations. Any new system, intake, investigation, or data collection system should be first informed and tested by APS staff before program-wide implementation. Staff are the most knowledgeable of the shortcomings of the current system and can suggest immediate applicable solutions.

  • APS should be adequately funded to ensure accountability, transparency, and effectiveness.  Continuous state funding is needed to increase the number and quality of staffing, improve training, and support a data reporting system that ensures responsiveness to vulnerable adults and their families. Incremental increases in funding are not enough to foster significant improvement in the effectiveness of APS. 

  • Changes need to be made to Arizona’s APS program to build public trust and increase its effectiveness. First and foremost, there needs to be more transparency about how APS conducts investigations. APS must increase outreach to educate agencies and the public about the role APS plays in the protection of vulnerable adults in our communities throughout the state.

  • Collaboration with police and family advocacy centers, which offer forensic interviewing and victim services, can strengthen investigations and increase substantiation rates. The extent of collaboration between law enforcement and APS varies across Arizona but must be strengthened to ensure adequate protection of vulnerable adults.

  • Current state law does not give APS authority to investigate and substantiate cases of emotional abuse. For people with I/DD, bullying and intimidation are pervasive and lifelong concerns. APS authority needs to be expanded to include investigating incidents of emotional abuse.

Sadly, the executive budget released by the Governor last week didn’t propose any additional investments ADES’ Adult Protective Services Program nor were vulnerable adults mentioned in the state of the state address.

There are a couple of bills out there including HB 2549 which would charge the Auditor General’s Office with contracting for an independent evaluation of APS’ performance- an evaluation that is sorely needed.  It includes a $300K appropriation to conduct the review.  HB1086 would  appropriate $3.3M to ADHS for 44 staff to investigate nursing home complaints.  

Perhaps this important (and surprisingly candid) report that came out of his executive branch will raise awareness that Arizona’s Adult Protective Services program needs some attention and resources.

Also, make sure to read the article in today’s Arizona Republic about the shortcomings of our Adult Protective Services system. Very informative.