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Protecting and Supporting Adults with Disabilities is Everyone's Job
By Luciana Randall


Our organization was founded by parents of children with autism in 1996, and as the world has changed, so has our focus. No longer simply a parent support and information organization, we remain an independent (not funded by government nor a national charity) nonprofit who has expanded our mission to be a lifeline for families and autistic adults, providing support, information, and advocacy. We now take help requests via email, messenger, and mail, in addition to traditional phone calls, providing more accessibility for disabled people in need of help, who cannot easily talk on the phone. They often contact us for assistance figuring out problems in their lives, and often they are being abused or exploited - sometimes without even being aware of it.

How could we be a lifeline of support, our mission, and continue to listen to awful stories of abuse, neglect, or sexual assault, without helping develop better disability victims' responses in programs and policies statewide? This question kept eating away at me. Existing resources can be very good, but some seemed uneven, inadequate, or at times, not very disability-informed. So I was pleased in 2018 to be appointed to the Victims Services Advisory Council for the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and then the Adult Protective Services (in the Department of Health) advisory board in 2019. One big issue these places have in common is that few in the disability world, while being most at risk of being harmed, are even aware they exist.

Adult Protective Services
Do you suspect elder abuse or abuse of an adult with a disability? Call 1-800-490-8505.

In 2010, the Adult Protective Services (APS) Law (Act 70 of 2010) was enacted to protect adults between the ages of 18 and 59 with a physical or mental disability that limits one or more major life activities. The APS Law establishes a program of protective services in order to detect, prevent, reduce and eliminate abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment of these adults in need. A report can be made on behalf of the adult, whether they live in their home or in a care facility such as a nursing facility, group home, hospital, etc.

Reporters can remain anonymous and have legal protection from retaliation, discrimination, and civil and criminal prosecution. The statewide Protective Services hotline is available 24 hours a day.

Have you ever had or noticed signs of abuse like these?

  • Bruises or broken bones
  • Weight loss
  • People touching you or putting things inside your body without permission
  • Memory loss
  • Bed wetting
  • Personality changes
  • Being forced to do things you do not want to do
  • People ripping you off, or taking your money
  • Social isolation or fears of specific people
  • Changes in banking habits
  • Giving away assets such as money, property, etc.

Here are two places to turn:
In case of suspected or known abuse, call 1-800-490-8505. Talk over your concerns with the intake worker (who is from the Area Agency on Aging), and get his or her name. If they feel that protection is necessary, they will contact the Adult Protective Services provider (currently Liberty Healthcare) and an investigator will contact you to go over things in more detail. You can remain anonymous through this process and you do not have to witness abuse or neglect firsthand in order to make a report.

And in the very sad, not uncommon event that you or anyone you know (disabled or not) has been the victim of a crime, all are entitled to free counseling and other victims services, no matter when or where the victimization occurred. You can call 1-800-233-2339. The link to a statewide map of victims service providers is https://pcv.pccd.pa.gov/available-services/Pages/Interactive-Map.aspx#.VBB2X_ldVyx

Luciana Randall is Executive Director, Autism Connection of PA. For more information, visit www.autismofpa.org.

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