TOPEKA – Abuse of adults may take on numerous forms, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, self-neglect or neglect by a caregiver and financial exploitation. Community providers, State agency representatives and Dr. Terry L. Koenig, Associate Professor at the Kansas University School of Social Welfare, collaborated in a panel on Thursday afternoon, in Topeka, to discuss hoarding. Hoarding is an issue that affects many vulnerable adults and can have serious consequences.
Gathered at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, Dr. Koenig, presented on Hoarding and Nonvoluntary Clients: Team interventions, a Political Approach and Beyond. Koenig was joined by Valeo Behavior Health Outpatient Psychotherapy Service Manager Donna Park, Adult Protective Services Social Worker Rose Roberts, Owner of Jen’s House Cleaning Service Jen Hopper and Property Maintenance Manager Mike Haugen to bring light to the issue, as well as to the State’s efforts to combat it.
Adult Protective Services Program Manager Leslie Hale provided an overview of how the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) addresses reports of adult abuse.
“When we get a report that an adult has been abused, neglected or exploited, we have a social worker go out and visit with the adult in their home, assess the situation and make sure they are safe see what’s going on and whether they are being abused,” Hale said. “If so, we come up with some sort of plan or intervention to make sure that person is safe from further harm.”
Adult abuse affects individuals 18 and older who are unable to protect themselves. This includes older adults and persons with disabilities.
Governor Sam Brownback declared June Adult Abuse Awareness Month, and DCF asked its staff and participants of the event to wear purple as a show of solidarity behind vulnerable adults.
During the current fiscal year, the DCF Adult Protective Services (APS) hotline has received approximately 16,000 calls regarding abuse and neglect of this vulnerable population. The agency helps protect older adults from being taken advantage of, as well as to ensure they are taking care of themselves.
The State of Kansas takes seriously this issue. Since FY2011, DCF has added Adult Protective Specialist positions to the Adult Protective Services program. It has increased training and outreach efforts and is now better equipped to serve vulnerable adults.
Since 2011, DCF and other State agencies, community providers and advocates have played an active role in positive change by serving on the APS Advisory Committee. They provided direction on a strategic plan to combat adult abuse. The plan includes six goals, including improving services, increasing staff knowledge, improving tracking and monitoring through data sharing and more.
Koenig said that hoarding is a relevant topic because a significant amount of adults suffer from it and it remains largely untreated.
“Surprisingly enough, about 1 to 2 percent of adults are involved in some sort of hoarding behavior,” said Dr. Koenig. “It is often viewed as a hidden problem and sensationalized, when in reality, lots of people struggle with this issue, so this is something that has just gone unnoticed and unacknowledged as something worth treating. In caring about people we ought to care about that issue also.”
Dr. Terry Keonig, Associate Professor at the KU School of Social Welfare, addresses the gathering at the Adult Abuse Awareness event today, at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library.