Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pennsylvania's Adult Protective Services Law becomes effective - or does it?

Act 70 of 2010, the Pennsylvania Adult Protective Services Act (35 P.S. §§ 10210.101), became effective on April 7, 2011. This Act creates a protective services program for adults ages 18 to 59 who have cognitive or physical disabilities and lack the capacity to protect themselves and who are at imminent risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment.

This new Adult Protective Services system fills a gap between Pennsylvania's existing protective service systems for children and the one for older adults over age 60. Act 70 unifies a patchwork of services that previously existed for adults between the ages of 18 and 59 and reaches those adults with limited protections because they reside with families or non-regulated caregivers.  It is intended to establish a statewide reporting and investigative system that will allow for a uniform way of reporting suspected abuse. 

The law establishes procedures for filing complaints of abuse, neglect, and exploitation and for investigations of complaints and the development of service plans to remove the adult from imminent harm and provide for long-term needs. The Act requires employees and administrators of facilities where adults covered under the act receive services to report suspected abuse.

The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) is the agency charged with responsibility for the program. However, under Section 7.01 (B) of the Act, DPW is not required to contract with agencies to provide adult protective services until final regulations are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and funding is appropriated by the General Assembly. 

Although 6 months have passed since the law's enactment, no proposed regulations have been published by DPW. This could be due to the disorder that typically accompanies a change in administrations. (Pennsylvania's new Governor was sworn this past January. And the nominee for Secretary of DPW has not yet been approved). But, given the current Budget environment in Harrisburg, funding is likely the more serious impediment to implementation. 

There is some potential for funding to eventually become available through the Federal Government. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the new Federal Health Reform law). The Elder Justice Act includes potential funding to states for their adult protective services programs. (The funding under Section 2042(b) of the Act does not appear to be limited to programs for the elderly.) President Obama has included a request $16.5 million in funding as part of his 2012 Budget. However, there is serious doubt that this request will survive the budget fever currently sweeping the national political system. 

As a result, at least for now, Pennsylvania's new Adult Protective Services system, while effective on paper, appears to be far away from realization.


Anita S said...

On the flip-side: this law is being tested in Northampton County. A neighbor of mine has been removed from the safe, NON-abusive home of her brother, Ron Shegda. The County workers are hiding behind provisions in this bill, as well as breaking many of them as well. 69News has picked up this story and Hon John Stoffa is investigating. Visit 'Free Lady Jane' on Facebook.

I have a son with autism and now live each day in fear that my child could be removed my home under this Act.

Anita Soltysiak
Hellertown, PA

Margaret Reinhart said...

I found no Free Lady Jane on Facebook, but our family is right now facing the same thing. 54 male has lived at home his whole life, he is mentally ill, he cannot read, cannot communicate with people, and cant hear.
The next day after his mother died, a young woman from Human Service's came to his home and asked him if he wanted to move, telling him he can move if he wants too! He owns his own home with his brother, left to them by there Mother. Now I was to say that he nods his head and says yea, to EVERYTHING. Even tho he does not understand what is being said. Now for 3 years they keep at him about moving! Then came the gardianship, ARC is pushing and pushing for him to move, into a group home, We took him to one and he SAID NO, I want to stay home. The Judge ordered a two month trial, but like I said he said no to the place. Now 45 minutes before the hearing infront of the Judge, They found him a new place, Its empty, he got to pick out his own bedroom. No one else will be coming to live there until after he has moved into this place. The place is going to be run by HIS ARC CASEWORKERS SON, and he will be charged $1,000 per month. They gave us $450.00 our monthly bills are are around 12-14 hundred.per month. One other thing, We dont know where our brother got this Lawyer, but we where told he was a Lawyer for ARC, we told the Judge that, and the lawyer told the Judge that he only does, little things for ARC. One more thing, he would have to walk a mile to work every day. He had open heart surgery, and has stents in him.