Louisiana’s Elderly Protective Services Is Failing

Louisiana’s Elderly Protective Services Is FailingGarcia & Artigliere has long represented victims of elder abuse, so when revelations about Louisiana’s Elderly Protective Services poor standing came to light, we can’t say we were very surprised.

The Louisiana Elderly Protective Services (EPS) is “responsible for investigating reports of elders aged 60 and above who are at risk due to abuse, neglect, exploitation and extortion,” according to their own website, but the reality is that EPS is struggling more than ever to keep up with investigations and casework.

A recent audit of EPS exposed insufficient resources, delayed responses to abuse reports, and limited public outreach. The audit highlighted shortcomings in reporting cases to coroners for suspicious deaths, slow emergency responses, and overloaded caseworkers. The Office of Elderly Affairs is considering solutions, including staffing adjustments and the implementation of a new computer system. The discussion aims to address funding issues and enhance the state’s ability to combat elder abuse effectively.

Where has Louisiana’s EPS failed the most?

The issues discovered by the audit, while troubling, might not be surprising, considering that these same issues have been a thorn in the side of the assisted living and nursing home industries for decades.

A list of the issues the audit of the EPS revealed include:

  • Understaffing and underfunding. EPS is understaffed, with just 29 caseworkers among a 40-person staff, leading to an average monthly caseload of 85.6 cases per caseworker. The agency’s budget of $6 million in fiscal year 2022 is considered insufficient for its operational requirements.
  • Poor management and supervision. The report indicates that EPS is poorly managed and supervised. The lack of clear, detailed guidance for staff on escalating response priorities and inconsistent criteria for case eligibility contribute to challenges in decision-making.
  • Ineffective data system. EPS relies on an outdated data system, hindering its ability to manage and track cases efficiently. This outdated technology contributes to communication issues and difficulties in recording and retrieving important information.
  • Communication and reporting challenges. The agency faces communication challenges, including not answering calls outside normal business hours, lacking online reporting options, and not providing alternatives for callers with hearing or speech impairments or language barriers. This clearly could result in missed reports of elder abuse.
  • Investigation procedures and notification. The audit highlighted gaps in EPS policy regarding investigation procedures for cases involving physical abuse and neglect leading to a client’s death. As per Fox 8:

EPS policy does not detail investigation procedures for physical abuse and neglect cases that involve a client’s death, and the agency “did not always notify coroners when clients died during investigations or follow up on causes of death to determine whether the cases should have been forwarded to law enforcement for further investigation.”

  • Case closure and timeliness. EPS’s goal is to close cases within 120 days, but the audit found that this goal was missed 58% of the time over the five-year period (2018-22). Approximately 27.5% of cases remained open for six months or more, indicating challenges in timely case resolution. In almost 20% of the reviewed cases from 2018 to 2022, elderly individuals died while investigations into abuse and neglect allegations stagnated within EPS. The lack of prompt responses and prioritization contributed to these tragic outcomes.
  • Missed reports and lack of technology. The agency’s limited technology infrastructure prevents tracking the number of hotline calls received after hours, potentially resulting in missed reports. EPS cited a lack of technology to handle calls outside regular business hours.
  • Client death notifications. Caseworkers did not consistently notify coroners in cases where clients died during investigations, raising concerns about the thoroughness of follow-up and potential referrals for further law enforcement investigation.
  • Missed response timeframes. A random sampling of 92 cases revealed that EPS did not contact clients within required timeframes more than 42% of the time and did not assign reports for investigation within the required timeframe nearly 20% of the time.

These problems show that there are systemic issues in how EPS works, making it difficult for the at-risk and suffering elders in our community to get the help they need and deserve. The audit highlights that the EPS needs extensive and wide-reaching changes. It is also clear that the EPS requires more assistance in addressing these problems, so that those who need help the most can get it.

For over thirty years, Garcia & Artigliere has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights of the vulnerable elderly community. Our commitment to justice has driven us to represent those who have experienced abuse or neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If you or a loved one are being abused in an assisted living or nursing home, or you feel that your rights are otherwise being taken advantage of, you can fill out our contact form or call our office to arrange a free consultation today. We have offices in Phoenix, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Louisville, and New Orleans. Let us help you.