“An internal Pennsylvania state government watchdog agency is criticizing how county-level agencies investigate thousands of complaints they receive about elder abuse and how the state ensures that complaints are investigated adequately.”
The Pennsylvania State Office of the Inspector General noted numerous failures by some county-level agencies to properly investigate complaints under timelines required by state law and inadequate staffing of the state office that monitors those agencies. The IG’s report also said investigative practices are not standardized across counties. It further criticized training requirements for caseworkers as far too weak, particularly compared to model states.
Pittsburgh CBS Local’s article, “Pa. Criticized for How it Handles Elder Abuse Cases,” also reports that complaints can involve physical abuse, self-neglect or financial exploitation. Pennsylvania, like other states, is experiencing a fast-growing number of complaints that has forced some counties to hire more caseworkers to keep up with the workload.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s administration said it has started to address the report’s findings. Just before the report was released, the governor fired the top two officials in the Department of Aging, which oversees what is called protective services for people who are 60 and older.
The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of pages of Department of Aging records in 2017 and discovered that the performance of the county-level agencies varied significantly. The department’s reviewers had told some counties that they’d failed, in some cases multiple times, to meet regulations and expectations over properly investigating complaints and logging casework. In addition, the AP also found wide discrepancies in the way in which a county deemed a complaint to be worthy of a full investigation and action. The details of complaints, investigations and the identity of the person whose situation is in question remain confidential.
Caseworkers handled almost 32,000 calls about potential elder abuse in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which is an increase from 18,500 five years earlier. Beginning in 2011, the Department of Aging has been led by people who came from a county-level agency. The department has no oversight from an outside, independent agency or reviewer.
Because of the frustration with the issues identified in elder-abuse investigations, department staff in 2017 started grading counties on a more aggressive compliance schedule. Since that time, more than 33% of the 52 county-level area agencies on aging have at one point received a substandard red or yellow rating, according to information from the department.
Reference: Pittsburgh CBS Local (January 9, 2019) “Pa. Criticized for How it Handles Elder Abuse Cases”