Disability Rights Vermont and the Vermont Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont on December 14, charging that the state is failing to adequately protect people with disabilities from abuse and exploitation.
“(Disability Rights Vermont) has been aware for years that Vermont’s (Adult Protective Service) system, though always made up of committed and hardworking individuals, has not been equal to the task of investigating the number of cases that come in,” said Ed Paquin, director of Disability Rights Vermont, in a news release. “Our elders and people with disabilities deserve better than to be placed “on the wall” waiting to be investigated, or piled on to caseloads so large that the net effect is the same.”
The organizations and the state entered an agreement in May 2011 to reduce the state’s backlog of abuse and exploitation complaints. However, the backlog has expanded from 272 to 320 cases in the past year, sparking the December 14 lawsuit.
The lawsuit lists a variety of allegations showing that the state system is falling short.
The state also takes an average of three to five months to complete an investigation, compared to the national average of 58 days. Amid state budget cuts, the state Division of Adult Protective Services has also cut back on staffing. As a result, the average investigator is in charge of 40 to 50 cases, as opposed to a national average of 23, according to the complaint.
“We have no faith that Adult Protective Services will bring its program into compliance without judicial oversight,” said Barbara Prine, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, in the news release.
Disability Rights Vermont is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.