TOPEKA – An estimated 15,000 calls have been made within the past year to report suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults in Kansas. Vulnerable adults include older adults and persons with disabilities. State leaders and community groups came together to raise awareness of the problem this afternoon, in Topeka. Adult abuse may come in the form of neglect, financial abuse/exploitation, emotional abuse or physical/sexual abuse.
“It is every person’s responsibility to respond to this growing problem by reporting suspected abuse or neglect; those who cannot protect themselves deserve to feel safe and protected,” Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer said.
Representatives of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), the Attorney General’s Office and Lt. Governor Colyer spoke during a news conference at the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, 2910 SW Topeka Blvd.
State leaders outlined ongoing initiatives to help vulnerable adults, including a nearly 20 percent staffing increase within the Adult Protection Services program of DCF and the implementation of Financial Abuse Specialty Teams (FAST) within several nursing homes in the Kansas City area. This pilot project is expected to expand throughout the state. The FAST teams are designed to promote timely reporting and monitoring of financial abuse of residents within nursing facilities.
Also speaking at the event was Peter Jouras who shared his family’s experience with adult abuse after his mother was allegedly victimized by a caretaker.
“I’m hopeful to see the progress that’s being made by the partnerships between State agencies, law enforcement and community groups,” Jouras said. ”This was a terrible ordeal for my family; I hate to see anyone else endure something similar.”
Speakers also discussed progress that’s been made from the 2011 creation of an Adult Protection Services Advisory Committee. The group of 29 individuals includes State staff, community leaders and legislators. DCF’s APS Administrator Leslie Hale described the six-tenant strategic plan created by the committee.
- Increase public’s knowledge of adult abuse and the APS program.
- Increase skills and knowledge of APS social workers.
- Increase collaboration with State and local partners.
- Improve accountability of the APS program through a continuous program-improvement process.
- Improve access to community services and resources.
- Promote self-determination of vulnerable adults.
“The strategic plan is now being implemented,” Hale said. “We are hopeful that with additional outreach efforts and partnerships with banks, nursing facilities, law enforcement and community groups, we can better protect this vulnerable population.”