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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor

Sheila J. Poole, Acting Commissioner

February 2017

Volume 9, Number 1

 

Adult Services Newsletter

A Message from the Executive Office
2016 NYS AATI: Community Collaborations and Partnerships 
By acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole

The 23rd annual New York State Adult Abuse Training Institute (AATI) was held November 1-3 in Albany. I was pleased to welcome a large number of enthusiastic attendees to the conference, where the theme was Community Collaborations: How Partnerships Can Expand Your Toolkit. This topic was well illustrated in a plenary session where the heads of two state agencies, Superintendent Maria Vullo of the New York State Department of Financial Services and Director Elizabeth Cronin of the New York State Office of Victim Services, spoke of how they are partnering with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and other agencies to serve vulnerable adults. Other workshops addressed how to form and operate local and regional multidisciplinary teams. Keynote speaker Phillip Marshall shared his story of how he sought justice on behalf of his grandmother, Brooke Astor, who was a victim of elder abuse by her son, Philip’s father. Astor’s story gained national attention and Mr. Marshall has dedicated significant time to advancing the cause of elder justice.

Pre-conference training and workshops included Article 81 Guardianship training for commissioners, county attorneys and caseworkers, and APS fundamentals of supervision. During the conference, workshop tracks offered included financial exploitation, elder abuse, domestic violence, and inequity.

Thank you to the Bureau of Training and the Bureau of Adult Services for their hard work in organizing and presenting this wonderful conference!  

Phillip Marshall delivering the keynote address   
L-R: NYSDFS Superintendent Maria Vullo, Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz, NYSOVS Director Elizabeth Cronin

 

 

NYC HRA APS Deputy Commissioner Deborah Holt-Knight V.P. Paul Caccamise, Lifespan of Greater Rochester

 

Project Coordinator Jenny Hicks of Vera House discussing the Abuse in Later Life grant
Senior Staff Attorney Debra Sacks of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging, providing guardianship training to local commissoners, county attorneys and APS caseworkers

 

From the director
There’s A Lot Going On In New York!
By Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz
 
The Adult Abuse Training Institute is where practitioners share statewide updates and best practices. At this  year’s conference, several colleagues presented “Five Minute Updates”. Among the many items shared:
                                                                                           

The new memorandum of understanding executed between NYS OCFS and NYS OFA

Status of first-ever “mapping” (i.e., matching) of New York State and New York City Adult Protective Services (APS) data elements to new federal APS data elements under the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System

Status of OCFS's development of a set of tools to assist APS and its partners in investigations and gathering documents for review by forensic accountants in complex financial exploitation cases

Trainings for financial professionals, sponsored by OCFS and the New York State Department of Financial Services held in Buffalo and Syracuse last autumn

Continuation and expansion of the Enhanced Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) program under state funding, with new coordinating “hubs” to be located in Erie County (Buffalo) and Onondaga County (Syracuse), to also serve adjoining counties

The New York City Elder Abuse Center (NYCEAC) and New York City APS are concluding the second phase of piloting the Interview for Decisional Abilities with 25 NYC APS caseworkers and supervisors. This is designed specifically for APS caseworkers to gather information about clients’ decisional abilities developed by NYCEAC/Weill Cornell Medicine, based on the work of Dr. Jason Karlawish.

NYCEAC will soon start a pilot Helpline for non-abusing family, friends and neighbors of NYC-residing elder abuse victims. The Helpline will provide information on elder abuse, support and referrals.

NYCEAC is partnering with health care providers from Weill Cornell Medicine / NY Presbyterian Hospital to develop an emergency room-based elder abuse response team, called the Vulnerable Elder Protection Team, or VEPT. Health care providers based in emergency departments who suspect abuse will soon be able to activate the team for further assessment and respond as appropriate. VEPT is believed to be the first such team in the country.

In June 2016, the New York City Council allocated $1.5 million in baseline funding to the NYC Department for the Aging to support NYC elder abuse MDTs.

Thanks to Paul Caccamise of Lifespan, Jenny Hicks of Vera House, Peg Horan of NYCEAC and Deborah Holt-Knight for providing these updates.

New York’s important contributions to the field of adult abuse prevention and protection were recognized on the national level at the National Adult Protective Services Association conference in Philadelphia this summer. I was honored with a President’s Award for OCFS’s collaborative work in the field of financial exploitation; an award I accepted on behalf of our agency and our terrific colleagues throughout the state.

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The OCFS Bureau of Adult Services welcomes Liciele Blunte, Susan Hollander and Anthony Lareau. Liciele and Susan will be providing support in APS and FTHA program in the NYC and Spring Valley regions while Anthony will cover the Finger Lakes region. We are delighted to have them aboard!

~Alan

The New York State Office of Victim Services:
A Safety Net for Older Adults and other Crime Victims in New York

By Elizabeth Cronin, director of the NYS Office of Victim Services

One in 10 persons in the United States over the age of 60 suffers from abuse. That is a staggering figure. Yet we know that fewer than 10 percent of those cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Professionals often miss or ignore signs of elder abuse. Moreover, many older adults suffer from poly-victimization: physical, emotional and financial abuse. This has serious consequences. Elderly people who experience abuse - even modest abuse - have a 300 percent increased risk of death compared to those who were not abused. State and local agencies, working together and sharing resources, can do so much to help those in need. This is particularly true for those who are most vulnerable, such as older adults. New York State is committed to providing services and support for all those who have been victims of crime, including older adults.

The New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS), the second-oldest continually operating crime victim compensation program in the country, is one of those agencies that exists as a safety net for crime victims who may need financial assistance as a direct result of their victimization. Victims may also access services from the more than 200 victim assistance providers funded through OVS. These programs serve crime victims throughout the State of New York (NYS) and are ready to assist victims with a myriad of services as well as working with victims to file compensation claims with OVS. As the payer of last resort, OVS can compensate eligible victims for such widely disparate expenses as personal property that is essential to health, welfare and safety; crime scene clean up; lost wages; a stay in a domestic violence shelter; vocational rehabilitation; and relocation expenses, among many others. Importantly, New York is the only state with no limit on medical and mental health counseling expenses for eligible crime victims and certain surviving family members.

It is well understood that abuse of older adults often comes at the hands of someone they know – such as a caregiver, family member or someone in a position of trust. For that reason, the number of cases actually reported to authorities remains low. This can be an impediment to the requirement that victimization be reported to law enforcement in order to make a victim eligible to receive compensation from OVS. However, it is important to note that, under the law, a report to law enforcement can include a report made to APS and/or a filing in Family Court. Moreover, any crime victim may access services from a funded OVS program, even if they are not eligible to apply for or are denied compensation from OVS.

It is imperative that all crime victims in New York know about this tremendous resource and be able to access services when needed. For that reason, OVS has teamed up with the Bureau of Adult Services within the NYS Office of Children and Family Services and the NYS Office for the Aging to raise awareness about elder abuse and what victims and their loved ones need to know about how we can help. Abuse of older adults is a social, public health and criminal justice issue. Successful intervention comes with collaboration by the entire community.

To increase awareness, OVS dedicated its observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in April 2016 to elder abuse. OVS developed a palm card targeting abuse of older adults and worked with NYS OFA to distribute them widely across New York State. The palm card helps elderly victims, caregivers and others to recognize signs of abuse, provides instructions on what to do to help, and information on how to access OVS resources. OVS also held a press conference to highlight efforts of the state to address this important issue. If you would like to order palm cards or other OVS materials, please email Jo-Ann.Powell@ovs.ny.gov.

This year, OVS commemorated its 50th year in service to crime victims in New York. As part of this important event, we created a video and a number of public service announcements featuring victims and victim advocates talking about the incredible resources of OVS. These videos are powerful testimonials to how OVS is there for crime victims who have suffered as a result of victimization. To see the video and PSAs, visit www.NY.gov/ovslearnmore.gov.
More information on OVS can be found at www.ovs.ny.gov, including a directory of the 223 victim assistance providers currently funded by OVS. Programs can be located by name, city/town or zip code.

To OVS, every crime victim matters. I encourage you to make yourself familiar with what the office and our local funded programs can do to assist you as you work with older adults who may have been victimized. d their loved ones need to know about how we can help. Abuse of older adults is a social, public health and criminal justice issue. Successful intervention comes with collaboration by the entire community.

A Call to Schenectady APS, and Partnership with DFS Leads to Successful Prosecution of Financial Exploiter of Elderly Victim
By Adrienne Silva, MSW, Schenectady County Department of Social Services

In March of 2015, Schenectady County APS was alerted to a possible case of financial exploitation of an elderly woman. It was revealed that this woman had a member of the community “assisting” her with her financial management who persuaded her to let him become a joint bank account holder with her, and that this person was refusing to pay for services that the woman needed to maintain herself in the community. APS fairly quickly identified, located and navigated family members who took over responsibility for the woman’s finances as agents under her power of attorney. The case was seemingly resolved and closed.

A short time later, another referral came in. One of the woman’s family members complained that the suspected exploiter who was originally involved was interfering with attempts to remove from him all power over the woman’s finances. APS learned the woman was frightened of this individual. After APS visited the bank with the woman and her family, APS learned that the exploiter was not only using the woman’s funds for his own use, but also victimizing another elderly person.

APS caseworker Noelle Marie, believing that the APS client was the victim of a crime, made the required referral to local law enforcement, as well as to the local district attorney’s office. She sought to engage several other law enforcement agencies in the case, initially without success.

Fortunately, Noelle, during the course of this investigation, attended an OCFS-sponsored APS New Worker Institute that provided information about the role of the NYS Department of Financial Services (DFS) and contact information for DFS. She contacted Jared Elosta, assistant counsel for DFS. Mr. Elosta then referred the case to the DFS Criminal Investigation team, who in turn provided the district attorney’s office with information that led to a prosecution.

The November 17, 2016 edition of the Schenectady Daily Gazette reported Richard Livingston had been charged with felonies and pleaded guilty to one count each of misdemeanor petty larceny and criminal tax fraud. He was also ordered to forfeit $4,000 in cash seized under a search warrant, pay an additional $5,000 in restitution and forfeit jewelry that was also seized. According to the prosecutor, the deal fulfilled the wishes of the two victims to not have to be involved in a trial.

If the caseworker had not been given Mr. Elosta’s contact information at the training she attended, the case may never have been investigated by law enforcement and the prosecution would likely not have occurred. It is likely the exploitation would not have been stopped, and many more vulnerable people may have been harmed. This case highlights the importance of continually building relationships within various agencies to protect vulnerable people and support the integrity of our work. It also speaks to the importance of offering ongoing professional development opportunities. The information that helps us carry out our responsibilities is ever-changing, and caseworkers need to be kept well-trained and up to date on the latest resources available to them. 

Reflections Back, From A Retiring Schoharie County APS Supervisor
By David Hunt

I was asked to take some time as I approach retirement to put some thoughts together for the newsletter. To think about all the changes having happened in Adult Protective Services over the years. Rarely are our work days in the field of human services the same. Every client and situation is always unique. Isn’t the unpredictability the reason we continue to work in this field?

Back in the days before computers, all progress notes and assessments were handwritten. My writing was never great. Thank God for spellcheck. Having been involved with the development of ASAP and now ASAP.net were great experiences, since the enhancements help to document what we as workers are doing. The reality is that any system we use needs to be updated from time to time. The fear has been that the computer time would take away from our time providing services for our clients. There is always a learning curve, but over time we become proficient in any program.

Working in Adult Protective Services, we are always challenged in working with our clients and respecting their autonomy. I have had many opportunities in public forums to bring up the point that we all make poor choices in our lives. Often, we end up looking at the consequence of the decision and the client’s understanding of that choice. From issues of where people live, to end-of-life decisions, the ability to make a choice should rule. I will always remember a client I worked with who had Alzheimer’s disease and was in the hospital. Hospice services were started and we were able to have the consumer return to his home. I recall the hospital nurse assisting me in getting the client in the car at the hospital and telling me that the man’s death would not take long to come, that you can “smell it.” It was the longest drive to his home, listening to his breathing getting very shallow, looking in my mirror to see the hospice nurse right behind me, in case. As soon as we arrived at the house, he perked up, realizing he was home. I carried him into the house and placed him in the bed where the next morning he died. This was what he wanted.

We have to develop all kinds of engagement skills in the field of Adult Protective Services, depending on issues in each case. Services (both child and adult) see our consumers in their life setting better than any other program. I did work in children’s services before adult services, and always told people the main difference is the age. We rarely get to choose who our clients are and what issues we will address. From mental illness and developmental delays to institutional care, we cover it all. We become knowledgeable about all types of community programs where we can refer our clients. Networking and the multidisciplinary approaches help in obtaining information and skills that can aide in servicing our consumer.

Occasionally we do have clients that want our help and/or assistance; however, usually they just want to be left alone. The hardest decision an APS supervisor has to make is when to use the court for involuntary services such as guardianship. Taking the right of self-determination away from a client should always be the last resort, I feel. Safety of the impaired individual and a lack of understanding the consequences of their actions is what generally drives us to seek court interventions. Then, as guardian, we end up having to sell real estate, worry about taxes, medical decision-making and again, the end-of-life decision-making. Maybe engaging our younger clients in planning such things as obtaining power of attorney, health care proxies and wills could help in the end when someone has to step up.

Lastly, we are not alone working with the clients we are faced with. There are days it may feel like it. You have supervisors, other caseworkers, administrators and OCFS staff that can come alongside and be an aide on those frustrating cases. To all the Adult Protective Services staff and OCFS I wish to say ‘thank you’ for being there for our most vulnerable clients, and aiding me in this walk.