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CBS4 Investigates: Statistics show poor state of adult care in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 24, 2016) - Terrifying statistics about elderly care in Indiana were found as part of a CBS4 investigation.

The investigation shows a lack of funding for investigators tasked with reviewing cases of possible abuse and neglect. The investigation also shows a lack of oversight and regulations from the state.

CBS4 began looking into the statewide problems after a mother and son were arrested in Greenfield for operating a home care business out of their home without any regulations. Shawn Kearns and her son David were charged with neglect of a dependent and criminal recklessness. State law requires businesses like Kearns Comfort Care who may four or more patients to be licensed. Investigators found the Kearns running and operating a care facility without any licenses, regulations, or medical qualifications.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration is the department that oversees the overall health and safety of adults in care homes and facilities across the state.

Adult Protective Services investigators are tasked with looking into claims of abuse and neglect. APS investigators are part of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, however, the funding for APS falls under Indiana FSSA. Indiana is the only state in which APS operates through a criminal justice function.

Right now, the budget for APS is just under $3 million total, with only $2 million coming from the general fund. In a comparison from other states, Indiana’s APS budget falls short. Illinois’ APS is a state run agency with a budget of $23 million. Ohio’s county-run APS budget is $3.5 million.

Indiana currently has 30 AP investigators. Many of them, including Jerry Kiefer, investigate abuse and neglect claims in three counties. Kiefer is in charge of protecting adults in Hancock, Shelby, and Johnson Counties. He has more than 15 cases each month he’s responsible for handling. Ohio and Illinois each have more than 100 APS investigators.

“I think sometimes a lot of what we do are band aids,” Kiefer said.

With the workload and amount of cases that pile up each day, Kiefer said sometimes certain victims may unintentionally fall through the cracks.

“If I get called out on something that I think requires my attention and I’m going to be there for a long time, the other cases that have come in, they start to back up,” he said.

Cases of financial theft are very common, especially in the areas Kiefer is charged with investigating. He said those cases take a lot of legwork and require a lot of time to complete. He’s concerned these types of cases will get worse as Indiana’s senior population continues to grow.

“The problems that we have now are only going to increase and they’re going to come big,” Kiefer explained.

In addition to a large caseload, the state is facing issues of a lack of oversight and problems with a statewide reporting standard. Ohio and Illinois were able to provide clear numbers on how many cases of elderly abuse and neglect were reported last year. Each state had around 14,000 cases. Late Friday, Indiana FSSA stated they had investigated approximately 9500 cases of elderly abuse in 2015 and there are statewide standards for reporting abuse and neglect. Previously CBS4 reported FSSA did not know the number of cases, and a statewide standard did not exist.  The 9500 cases of elderly abuse in Indiana would average out to more than 300 cases per APS investigator per year.  A caseload that exceeds one new case every weekday.

Representatives for Ohio's Adult and Family Services Administration said a knowledge of how many abuse cases helped the state receive a dramatic increase in funding for 2015 and 2016.

Lawmakers and investigators are calling the budget situation a critical problem that needs to be addressed immediately. (D) House Representative Karlee Macer, district 92, calls the issues an emergency.

“It needs to be handled right now. It isn't something we can wait on for next session,” Macer said. “They are working on some desperate opportunities to fins some money within our own budgets to be able to help with APS right now, but it’s a problem we’re going to have to deal with on a much more permanent basis,” she added.

Macer is talking about Senate Bill 192. It aims to fund a study to determine how many additional APS investigators are needed and how much it will cost. FSSA says a quick fix isn’t the answer. There’s currently a case study being conducted by the University of Indianapolis. Results are expected by April. Senate Bill 192 is designed to support that study, asking for in part, “a statement of consistent standards of care for endangered adults,” and “consideration of the benefits and cost of establishing a centralized intake system for reports of matters related to abuse, neglect, or exploitation of endangered adults.”

FSSA released the following statement to CBS4.

“In 2010, only 13 percent of all Hoosiers were over age 65, yet by 2030, that number will reach 20 percent. This means that in just a few years, fully one-fifth of Indiana’s population will be senior citizens.

With that anticipated growth in Indiana’s senior population, the potential that our State will experience an increase in the prevalence of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is a concern, and we recognize that Adult Protective Services (APS) needs to evolve in order to address this risk and protect our vulnerable seniors.

This is why we want to reemphasize the work that FSSA has conducted over the past two years to address this serious issue including

  • Partnering with the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging and Community to conduct a study that will help us plan for how to handle an increase in APS cases,
  • Collaborating with county prosecutors who administer APS in their local communities to develop standardized, statewide reporting procedures and policies,
  • Providing an additional $450,000 to county prosecutors for investigations – which represents a 20 percent increase in state funding. (The state budget appropriation has remained nearly constant in the last three budget bills), and
  • Working to develop consistent statewide training for APS investigators to not only improve consistency but also ensure that we are prepared to meet the growing challenge of elder abuse.

We feel strongly that a “quick fix” is not what is called for here. Instead, we believe that our collaborative and research-based approach is how we will best address this critical issue – not only for our current elders, but also for those of us who will be joining the ranks of Hoosier seniors in the future.”

Governor Mike Pence’s Office also released a statement to CBS4 stating;

“Governor Pence takes the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Hoosiers very seriously. Family and Social Services Administration will continue to work on a plan to improve the state’s Adult Protective Services Program, which will guide us in our conversations about appropriate funding levels."

CBS4 and FOX59 are continuing the investigation into statewide problems with senior and adult care. We are working with our media partners at IndyStar.

IndyStar published a series of stories articulating those problems, including how the state failed to protect a victim of elderly abuse.

Click on the following articles for more: 

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