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Newsroom State Agencies Work Together to Protect Vulnerable Adults

Abuse of vulnerable adults may take on numerous forms, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse, self-neglect or neglect by a caregiver and financial exploitation. Three State agencies presented a united front today, against such abuse of Kansas’ vulnerable adults.

Gathered at the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging office in Topeka, speakers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) preceded a presentation by Alma Heckler, Assistant Attorney General, to call attention to the issue, as well as to the State’s efforts to combat it.

Heckler provided an overview of changes in Kansas statute that toughen penalties for adult abuse. 

“These changes give Kansas new tools to prosecute criminally those who would abuse some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Heckler said. “The penalties are more severe for committing what is a growing area of crime.”

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 the general public to wear purple today, in support of adult abuse prevention.

During the current fiscal year, the DCF’s Adult Protective Services (APS) hotline has received more than 13,000 calls regarding abuse and neglect of this population. The agency helps protect older adults from being taken advantage of, as well as to ensure they are taking care of themselves.

“I have worked with vulnerable adults my entire career as a social worker, in nursing homes, group homes for the mentally ill and with DCF,” said April Shine, APS Supervisor. “It is my passion to help others in need, who cannot protect themselves. There is no greater joy than to see clients reach their potential and live the life they choose.”

Deneen Dryden, Director of Prevention and Protection Services, says the agency is receiving an increasing number of reports of abuse and/or neglect among this population, primarily due to the growing elderly population in the state.

Kansans can report abuse by calling the DCF Kansas Protection Report Center at 800-922-5330.

“We have a strong and effective partnership with KDADS,” said Dryden. “DCF investigates abuse and neglect of individuals in the community. KDADS, meanwhile, oversees investigations involving long-term care facilities. Together we are combatting the problem and equipping families with the resources and knowledge they need to protect their loved ones.”

Kelli Ludlum, KDADS Assistant Secretary, said the agency is improving its credentialing and background check policies at long-term care facilities. Through a federal grant, KDADS has recently added the ability to check out-of-state records for more extensive background checks.

“This allows us to do better at stopping abuse before it starts,” Ludlum said. “Those in long-term care are dependent on others for many to all aspects of their care. We want to make sure those in that position are qualified for that responsibility.”

(Leslie Hale, Assistant Deputy Director for Adult Protective Services, addresses the gathering at the Adult Abuse Awareness event at the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, Friday.)​