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.