Once the formal legislative session ends, it’s generally pretty quiet down at the legislature. But from time to time there are various important hearings and meetings. For example, the House Committee on Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Adults met Wednesday to hear about the latest audit of the system that’s supposed to protect vulnerable adults.

It’s no secret that the system that’s supposed to protect vulnerable adults broke down during the previous administration…  as several reports from the Arizona Auditor General found large gaps in the performance of that safety net:

Auditor General’s Office Produces Scathing Review of ADHS’ Nursing Home Complaint Investigations During the Director Christ Era

ADES’ Adult Protective Services Failed to Protect Vulnerable Adults During the Ducey Administration

Those first audits prompted the legislature to do an additional investigation into how state agencies ADES, ADHS & AHCCCS) handle and respond to reports of abuse and neglect.

I was unable to attend the meeting but watched the recorded hearing on the state legislature’s website.

The Committee heard first-hand about the findings of the most recent auditor general’s report including recommendations. The report outlines three main gaps in Arizona’s care system: a lack of strategic direction, an unclear case management process and the need to better engage patients and families. 

See the Report: Arizona Auditor General APS Audit

Three state agencies each play a role (and have a statutory duty) to protect vulnerable adults (ADES, ADHS & AHCCCS).

The report found AZ’s system “lacked direction” and conducts lengthy investigations that result in rates of substantiating abuse, neglect and exploitation that are “well below” national levels. 

For example, during the study period (during the Ducey Administration) APS substantiated less than 1% of reports of abuse and neglect compared with national substantiation rates of between 29% and 33%.

The report suggests it’s not just poor leadership and a lack of accountability that led to the scathing results in the report. Staffing levels appear to be one of the root causes. APS caseworkers managed an average of 58 cases per caseworker in fiscal year 2022 compared with best-practice standards of 25/caseworker.

I was encouraged to see ADES agree with the audit’s findings and submitted a detailed response agreeing to implement the auditor’s recommendations. Standard practice during the earlier administration was to dispute findings and ignore recommendations.

Tragedies at Arizona assisted living centers stir outrage (azcentral.com)

Heritage Village: Injuries, death at Mesa senior living center (azcentral.com)

Arizona senior living facilities are understaffed, endangering workers (azcentral.com)