In the state of Minnesota, anyone can make a report of concern about a vulnerable adult by calling the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) tollfree at 844-880-1574. MAARC has operators available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to document reports of concern and route them to the appropriate lead agency. Reports of suspected maltreatment of a vulnerable adult that occur in Cook County are forwarded by MAARC to Cook County Public Health and Human Services (CCPHHS).
When CCPHHS receives a report of suspected maltreatment, it is the Adult Protective Services (APS) team’s responsibility to determine if the individual who is the subject of concern meets the definition of being a vulnerable adult per MN Statute 626.5572. A vulnerable adult can be anyone over the age of 18 who:
• Receives services such as home care, personal care assistance or other licensed services.
• Is in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living, foster care or other licensed facility.
• Has a physical, mental, or emotional disorder that makes it difficult for the person to care for themselves without help and to protect themselves from maltreatment.
The APS team also determines if the allegations included in the report fall under one of three types of maltreatment: abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Abuse may include physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. Neglect may include caregiver neglect or self-neglect. Caregiver neglect is defined as the failure of a caregiver to supply a vulnerable adult with care or services, including but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision. Self-neglect can occur when a vulnerable adult demonstrates an inability to adequately care for themself in a manner that maintains their physical or mental health or safety. Financial exploitation may include theft or withholding of money or property and/or use of the vulnerable adult’s money or property not for the vulnerable adult’s benefit.
Using a structured decision-making tool, APS staff will either screen in a report for assessment or screen out a report at the time of intake. Assessments allow APS staff to learn more about a situation and offer interventions. The safety of the vulnerable adult is always the primary concern and achieving safety, the primary goal of Adult Protective Services. APS staff work to provide education and support to all parties involved in a maltreatment report, as allegations are oftentimes the result of a vulnerable adult or their caregiver being unaware of the resources available to them. If a person is willing to engage in the interventions offered, there are many things that APS can do to facilitate change, such as connecting an individual with general and/ or mental health services by contacting providers, scheduling appointments, coordinating transportation, and assisting with accessing health insurance. In addition, APS staff assess for long-term needs and supports and connect individuals with services such as home-delivered meals, homemaking, skilled nursing services, and caregiver support.
At the heart of adult protection is the principle that everyone deserves to maintain their dignity, cultural identity, and right to self-determination. This means that each person gets to choose how they live their life if they still have capacity to make decisions and are not intentionally harming themself or others. It is important to remember that one person’s standards of a clean home, appropriate diet, or use of health care services may not be the same as the next. Change can take time, and when we are working with vulnerable people and attempting to honor their right to self-determination, they get to make choices about the help they are willing to receive. Furthermore, available resources and services are limited, which can lead to a delay in how quickly we might see positive change. Nevertheless, APS assessments can and do result in the introduction of positive interventions and are a valuable tool in improving the lives of vulnerable people who are struggling.
We all play a role in protecting our most vulnerable citizens by making reports of concern if we suspect maltreatment. Adult Protective Services can open the door to education, support, and connection to resources. If you suspect a vulnerable adult is suffering from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, please call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 844-880-1574.
Learn more about the PHHS department and adult protective services in Cook County at the December 20 PHHS Board Meeting in the Cook County Commissioners’ Room. Information and resources are also available by calling 218-387-3620 or online at www.cookcountyphhs.org. You can find us on Facebook @ CookCountyPHHS or on Instagram @cook_county_phhs.
County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.