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Adult Protective Services: An overview

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Abuse, neglect, and exploitation involving at-risk adults is a growing problem in the United States, and Colorado is no exception. To help deal with this problem, each county department of human services in the state provides Adult Protective Services (APS) to its community. The main responsibility of APS is to provide protective services to stop or prevent the mistreatment or self-neglect of at-risk adults. APS works with a variety of agencies in the community to arrange services necessary for the health, safety and welfare of at-risk adults.

In fiscal year 2015 APS received 16,696 reports of mistreatment and self-neglect of at-risk adults in Colorado. At-risk adults are people age 18 or older who cannot provide for their own health, safety, or welfare, or obtain the services necessary to keep themselves safe and healthy. Some of the conditions that contribute to making an adult at-risk for mistreatment or self-neglect include dementia, Alzheimer's disease, developmental disabilities, severe physical disabilities, or serious medical conditions.

There are a wide range of situations that may be considered mistreatment or self-neglect. Physical abuse, caretaker neglect, exploitation and sexual abuse are all forms of mistreatment. Self-neglect occurs when an at-risk adult does not or cannot provide for their own health, safety or welfare because they are unable to secure necessary services or resources on their own.

When APS responds to a report of mistreatment or self-neglect the first step is to interview the at-risk adult and investigate the allegations. If the allegations are criminal in nature, APS works with local law enforcement and the District Attorney as part of its investigation. If the allegations are valid, and the at-risk adult accepts help, APS will set up protective services and find resources to help keep the at-risk adult safe. These services may include homemaker services, food delivery, medical services, home health care and other support services. The goal of any APS service is to keep the at-risk adult safe while helping him or her remain as independent as possible.

As of July 1, members of certain professional groups are required to report the abuse, neglect or exploitation of at-risk adults with intellectual development disabilities to law enforcement within 24 hours, in addition to at-risk elders which became required in 2014. At-risk adults with IDD are individuals 18 years of age or older who have an intellectual or developmental disability resulting in an impairment of intellectual function or adaptive behavior. At-risk elders are people who are age 70 years old or older. These professional groups include doctors, dentists, nurses, home health providers, adult care facility staff, emergency responders, clergy members, financial institutions staff and many others. Mandatory reporters who fail to report an incident in 24 hours may be charged with a class III misdemeanor. For more information, please visit ColoradoAPS.com.

Individuals who are not mandatory reporters are urged to report mistreatment or self-neglect of an at-risk adult with IDD or at-risk elder to the Delta County Department of Human Services at 970-872-1000, during business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Ask to speak to the adult protection intake worker. If calling about an emergency situation during non-business hours, contact 872-1230 to make the report.

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