Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ottawa County to streamline abuse investigations

A handful of Ottawa County agencies recently signed on to a plan outlining how to report and handle abuse cases.

Simply put, the document sets up a strategy for county agencies to follow in the event an abuse case is reported or investigated. It also outlines the proper way to conduct joint investigations, collect evidence and protect confidentiality.

“Reports of elder abuse are on the rise,” Ottawa County commissioner Jo Ellen Regal said. “If a standardized process is in place all cases will be handled the same from filing of an abuse report to the investigation and possible prosecution. It will also be helpful when cases cross jurisdictional boundaries.”

Regal said most of the response procedures are already in place but are solidified in the memorandum.

Ottawa County Job and Family Services director Stephanie Kowal said they are in the process of collecting signatures from numerous departments and law enforcement agencies in the county for participation.

Kowal addressed the memorandum during a question and answer session with the Register:

Q: What prompted Ottawa County agencies to begin adopting this memorandum? Is it necessary?

A: Ohio House Bill 64 passed in October 2014, which became effective in September 2015. There are several provisions in that legislation, one of which is the implementation of a memorandum of understanding between required parties in each county. The deadline for all provisions of the law is July 2016. Ottawa County has been working on the understanding and other processes, prior to the legislation

Q: How will this change the current way abuse cases are reported, prevented or handled? 

A: Ottawa County began working on how adult protective services cases are referred, investigated and coordinated, prior to the legislation. This memorandum is more of a tool to spell out our processes and protocols, rather than a change to how cases are investigated. It is an opportunity to make sure that anyone working with seniors is aware of the process, who to report suspected abuse/exploitation or neglect to, and how the responsible agencies will collaborate to meet the needs presented.

Q: When will this memorandum be implemented?

A: The memorandum is effective already, and again, solidifies how we treat reported cases of elder abuse, exploitation or neglect. For example, a law enforcement agency that has not yet signed the memorandum already makes reports to our agency when they suspect an elderly person is being neglected or abused. Those parties who have not yet signed off on the document already report incidents to our office. We have staffed our Adult Protective Services through our Children Services Division, and so there is the ability to report 24/7. During business hours, reports can be made to the office 419-707-8639 or 800-665-1677. After hours, calls go to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, and the on call worker is contacted.  (Continue Reading)

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Ottawa County to streamline abuse investigations

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