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SRS urges public to report elder abuse, exploitation

Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services officials Monday rolled out an informational campaign aimed at encouraging the public to report elder abuse and exploitation.

“It is not widely known that our elderly or disabled adults can be targets of physical or financial abuse or neglect by their caregivers,” said Jim Kallinger, deputy secretary in charge of integrated services at SRS.

Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services officials Monday rolled out an informational campaign aimed at encouraging the public to report elder abuse and exploitation.

Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services officials Monday rolled out an informational campaign aimed at encouraging the public to report elder abuse and exploitation.

Kallenger, a former Florida legislator and chief child advocate for the Florida governor’s office, spoke during a mid-morning rally outside the Statehouse.

SRS, he said, received more than 11,000 reports of adult abuse or exploitation between July 1, 2011, and March 30, 2012; of these, about 7,500 were investigated.

“These are some pretty dramatic numbers,” Kallinger said, “and it’s apparent that there are Kansas adults who are suffering silently, not aware that there is help and that they have options and rights.”

It’s unclear how many of the investigations led to interventions.

Kallinger encouraged people to call the department’s Protection Report Center, 800-922-5330, if they know of an adult who’s being abused or exploited.

Afterward, he told reporters that adult protective services had long been given short shrift within SRS.

“Like when we train our social workers, they spend 95 percent of their time talking about child protective services and maybe 5 percent talking about adult protective services,” he said. “We’re reversing that — we’re going to have training just for our adults.”

Plans also call for putting adult protective services supervisors in each of the department’s four regional offices, and creating a central office position for overseeing the initiative.

Two “staff people,” Kallinger said, will assist the new manager.

“We’re also changing how the hotline workers are trained,” he said. “In the past, adult protective services have been kind of muddled in with the child protective services stuff. We’re going to separate the two and have a real focus on adult protective services.”

Earlier this year and in 2011, advocates for the elderly panned SRS’ handling of adult-neglect complaints, prompting Rep. Bob Bethell — an Alden Republican and chair of the House Aging and Long-term Care Committee — to twice introduce legislation aimed at putting the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in charge of the investigations.

Both times the bill stalled in committee after SRS officials promised to commit more resources to elder-abuse concerns.

Bethell died May 20 in a one-car crash on Interstate 70.

At the rally Friday, Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, a Republican from Perry, called Bethell “an incredible champion and advocate for senior citizens and disabled Kansans.”

Gonzalez, who also served on the House Aging and Long-term Care Committee, said he would monitor SRS handling of the complaints as a way of honoring Bethell.

“He was an awesome chairman,” he said.

Kallinger said he hoped Gonzalez would agree to replace Bethell on the SRS’ adult protective services advisory committee.

The advisory committee, too, is new.

“The fact that SRS has a plan, and is actually implementing a plan and having stakeholder oversight is a great development,” said Debra Zehr, executive director with LeadingAge Kansas, an association that represents most of the state’s nonprofit nursing homes. “This is a step in a good direction.”

Zehr is a member of the advisory committee. Rahel Monger, LeadingAge Kansas’ director of government affairs, is chairing the committee.

Kallinger said SRS adult protective services would remain at SRS after a July 1 reorganization that will move department’s duties to the Department on Aging and Human Services.

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