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State seeks to improve services that protect vulnerable adults

State seeks to improve services that protect vulnerable adults

State officials are looking at revamping Adult Protective Services to improve the system that investigates allegations of abuse, exploitation and neglect of vulnerable adults.

The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Department of Economic Security, which oversees APS, announced earlier this week that a forum is set Jan. 23 in Phoenix to hear recommendations for an action plan.

The forum will focus on three primary goals:

  • Protecting vulnerable adults by providing better access to services, including reducing waiting lists for various services, improving sufficient services and ensuring cases are properly followed up and closed.
  • Improving state agency efficiency, which may include streamlining the investigative process, bettering partnerships with law enforcement and reviewing Arizona’s laws and rules.
  • Reducing the backlog of cases and developing a system to prevent future backlogs.

Lisa Reams, vice president of programs and services for Pima Council on Aging, said she welcomes the meeting in Phoenix to discuss ways to improve services for vulnerable adults. Reams oversees employees who provide case-managed services, elder rights and advocacy for residents of assisted living and nursing home facilities.

The amount of time it takes APS to respond to concerns reported regarding a situation involving a vulnerable adult, and the time it takes for an investigator to substantiate claims and provide needed supports has to improve, Reams said.

She said APS also must look at procedures followed by staff who respond to people who are reporting problems. “There must be consistency, and investigators must be consistent in dealing and following up on reports that are made,” said Reams.

“The leadership at Adult Protective Services has been very proactive in Tucson in their involvement and dedication to these kinds of improvements,” Reams said.

Those attending will include officials of state agencies, law enforcement, health-care providers, advocates for older adults, first responders and policymakers who can identify gaps in the system and provide solutions, said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director and interim DES director, in a news release.

“Protecting vulnerable adults is one of the core functions of DES and the state, and the primary goal of this action plan is to develop steps we can take that will improve the way APS functions, and more importantly, protect the people who need us the most,” said Christ.

More than 250 people throughout the state were invited to the forum, and each is expected to bring ideas and solutions for bettering APS, said Christ.

The action plan will be finalized by mid-February.

Officials are being aggressive with the timelines to ensure rapid improvements “in order to protect vulnerable adults in Arizona,” Christ said.

The forum will run from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. and be held at Desert Willow Conference Center, 4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., in Phoenix. More information about the event will be posted online at azhealth.gov/APS-Stakeholder.

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