To read on Bangor Daily News website:
Investigations into the abuse of disabled adults in Maine have slowed, without explanation
By Danielle McLean, Posted Feb. 12, 2017
BANGOR, Maine — During the past four years, Geneva Belden has fallen twice. The first fall, in May 2013, broke her nose. The second, in October 2016, broke her thumb, according to the home care agency Branches, which assists her in the Bangor group home where she lives.
Belden is intellectually disabled, and while she can converse with others and care for herself, she has trouble with critical thinking and long-term planning.
After the first fall, Branches staff didn’t take her to the hospital for two days until they noticed her black eyes. When Branches administrators learned of this, they reported these incidents to the Office of Aging and Disability Services, as required by state regulations, said Brian Noble, the owner of Branches. They did the same after the second fall.
State regulations specify those who care for people with intellectual disabilities must report all potentially dangerous situations within a day of learning of them — and the most pressing situations immediately — even if actual harm or injury did not occur.
It’s expected that these reports would trigger an independent investigation by state regulators with Adult Protective Services, a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which is required to investigate abuse and neglect — which can range from sexual assault to group home staff members falling asleep on the clock — of people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism.
But to date, neither Belden nor Noble say they’ve heard from the state regarding these reports.
According to several providers who have came forward to the Bangor Daily News to share concerns about the state’s system for investigating suspected abuse and neglect, this silence has become increasingly common.
Five health care service providers in York, Penobscot, Androscoggin and Kennebec counties shared their referral numbers with the BDN. Combined, they had reported 555 allegations of possible abuse, neglect or exploitation between 2011 and 2015. Adult Protective Services had produced final reports for just 40 of them.
What’s not known is whether the state is declining to investigate allegations, if the investigation reports are being shielded, perhaps because of privacy concerns, or if there has been a policy shift away from what health care service providers believe should occur.
“Agencies don’t receive reports any more. So what happens is an agency files a reportable event as they are required to and doesn’t necessarily ever hear anything again,” said Charlene Kinnelly, a recently retired lobbyist for the Maine Association for Community Service Providers, which represents residential or day-program providers’ interests.
The Maine Developmental Services Oversight and Advisory Board, which provides independent oversight of services for adults with intellectual disabilities or autism, also has expressed grave concern over the state’s lack of responsiveness.