The association representing Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging said that two major findings in a report released last week criticizing the Department of Aging’s oversight of elder abuse investigations was inaccurate.
WRITTEN BY NICOLE C. BRAMBILA
A statewide association representing Pennsylvania's 52 Area Agencies on Aging responded to a report criticizing the Department of Aging's oversight of elder abuse investigations, saying the two major findings were inaccurate.
Rebecca May-Cole, director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, or P4A, said Tuesday that State Inspector General Bruce Beemer and his office erred in finding 20.4 percent of the reviewed cases did not conduct in-person interviews within 72 hours. May-Cole said the regulations only require an attempt.
Also at issue was the report's determination that in nearly half of the cases local agencies did not complete abuse investigations within 20 days.
Released last week, the State Office of Inspector General's summary report was critical of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging's oversight of protective services. The report focused on whether the network was complying with state statutes and timelines for investigations.
Clarke Madden, Beemer's spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
Pennsylvania's aging population has increasingly made elder abuse a high-visibility issue. Over the past decade the number of complaints has surged roughly 40 percent, and advocates expect the problem to worsen as Baby Boomers age.
"It's difficult and I in no way want to blame it all on the funding," May-Cole said. "But it really is difficult when there's been no significant increase in many, many years."
To keep up with the demand, May-Cole estimates another $6 million is needed annually.
Although tasked with protecting Pennsylvanians 60 and older, local agencies provide a range of services that are often more visible to seniors, such as community centers and feeding programs.
May-Cole added, "There's this balance that needs to happen."
The inspector general summary report contained a dozen recommendations that included a centralized call center for reporting and increased training.
Clayton "JR" Reed, the association's Protective Services and Guardianship Committee chair and executive director of the Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services, said the network's shortcomings could be addressed with updating the state statute.
"Nobody's talking about looking at legislation," Reed said. "The laws were written in 1987."
A possible fix, Reed said, would be extending the length of time to complete reports from 20 to 30 days, something that would be in line with timelines for investigations by Child Protective Services. He also suggested increasing the number of investigators to lower caseloads from about 30 to 20.
While highlighting some very real issues, the way Reed sees it, performance reports can detract from what's important.
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State group critical of elder abuse report