(Host) Vermont Legal Aid is pressing the Agency of Human Services to reduce a backlog in investigations of reports of abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.
The cases range from physical abuse to financial exploitation.
Legal Aid says by law the Department of Adult Protective Services is supposed to begin investigations of all reports within 48 hours.
Barbara Prine is an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid.
She says the backlog of approximately 250 cases involving alleged abuse of the elderly and the disabled goes back many months and isn’t acceptable.
(Prine) "The state of Vermont knows how to protect people who are abused and neglected. We do it with children. We need a parallel equally strong system for people with disabilities and our senior citizens and the state has got to take it a little more seriously."
(Host) Earlier this year, the state made an agreement with Legal Aid to eliminate the backlog by October 1st, but the number of new cases has slowed progress toward that goal.
Doug Racine is the Secretary of the Agency of Human Services. He says staffing problems have made it difficult for the agency to address the backlog. He says open positions are now being filled and that progress has been made. According to Racine, the existing backlog doesn’t include the most serious cases of abuse.
(Racine) "Those that involve potential harm to individuals, threats to their safety, in fact to their lives, those we are addressing immediately. The backlog is in economic financial exploitation of individuals."
(Host) Racine says it’s important that all cases be investigated quickly. He hopes to eliminate the backlog by January and prevent future ones by filling open staff positions.
In 2010 there were 1258 cases of abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults reported. That number is expected to be higher in 2011.