A silent epidemic: lack of funding allows abuse to thrive
INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis) has released the following statement to the media concerning the epidemic of elder abuse in Hoosier communities:
“When it comes to abuse, the first thing that comes to mind is child abuse and domestic abuse, neglecting the victimization of some of our most at risk populations: our seniors and disabled adults. Yet again this year, our headlines are plastered with stories highlighting the silent epidemic of elder abuse right here in our community. The news of the abuse at facilities in both Indianapolis and Johnson County provides just a glimpse into the horrific conditions that many seniors and disabled adults are enduring within our communities.
Greenwood Safe Journey has been shuttered and the owner arrested, but not until after the special-needs residents of this facility endured battery, criminal confinement and a litany of other forms of exploitation. The crushing truth is that these incidents are not one-off occurrences, but an issue plaguing a state agency that does not have the funds and resources available to enact the changes needed to protect our citizens. Physical, emotional and verbal abuse have become commonplace in a number of our adult care facilities, begging the question: How can this happen and what should we be doing to ensure that our vulnerable populations are protected?
The priorities of our state budget continue to overlook the support and resources that our Adult Protective Services (APS) officers so desperately need. These are the enforcement officers who are charged with investigating the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them.
Currently 7 APS officers serve 4 counties (Marion, Hendricks, Boone, and Hamilton) and oversee as many as 70 cases at a time. It is obvious that this gross underfunding has left a gap in services in which adults with disabilities and our seniors are able to slip through the cracks. These are more than just numbers and statistics, these are family members, friends and loved ones who are suffering at the hands of a confined budget. Our hardworking and dedicated APS officers do all that they can and give of themselves day and night to try and serve those who have been victims of abuse, but the stark reality is that without proper funding they have been hamstrung by bureaucracy at the expense of our citizens.
As we prepare to enter another legislative session, it is imperative that the protection of our most vulnerable populations must become a greater priority for our elected officials. We can’t allow this systemic abuse to continue on our watch again and again, as we continue to break the trust of our citizens who are most in need of our help. As legislators, we are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the care and protection of all Hoosiers, especially those who cannot care for themselves. We cannot effectively protect our seniors and adults with disabilities without providing more funding to APS, specifically for more staff, more thorough training and more authority. We simply cannot expect an underfunded, underpaid and understaffed department to be able to efficiently serve those in most dire need of our help.
This is a nonpartisan issue that can be resolved by the collaborative work of our legislature, and I look forward to working together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do what is right for Hoosiers. As a state, we have neglected our Adult Protective Services for far too long and are now seeing the consequences of this lack of staffing and oversight. It should be our commitment to Hoosiers and their families that we will do all that we can to systematically support the agents that protect our communities, and those who have been suffering in silence for so long.”