Seemingly, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services works in the best interests of the elderly and those with disabilities.
The state department's website states: it investigates abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable individuals 60 and older and people with disabilities between 18 and 59. These individuals may live in the community or in long-term care facilities. Either way, they are unable to protect their own interests or adequately perform or obtain services necessary to meet their essential human needs (192.2400, RSMo).
Missouri’s Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline responds to reports of abuse, bullying, neglect, and financial exploitation. If you suspect someone is being abused, bullied, neglected or exploited, call the hotline at 800-392-0210.
Sounds like good state government, right? The problem is that only about 50 percent of the nearly 92,000 calls to the hotline in 2018 were ever answered. The percentages were even worse after the first of the year. Only about 39 percent of the calls answered between January and April this year have been answered.
It took an investigation by the Columbia Missourian, the University of Missouri's student newspaper, and KBIA, a public radio station in Columbia, to bring this information to light.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, after reading the report, told The Associated Press that he will investigate troubles at the Missouri's elder abuse hotline.
He also pledged to provide more resources until a remedy can be found, possibly including emergency court orders to protect members of vulnerable populations who need immediate assistance.
Local sources tell us that a vastly understaffed office is at least one of the causes of our state's failure to protect those who may be suffering from abuse.
Schmitt is correct to get this problem corrected quickly. We've allowed the most vulnerable in our state to be victimized all over again by those who are supposed to be their watchdogs.
Consumers who suspect abuse and are having trouble making contact through the Elder Abuse Hotline should call the Medicaid Fraud Abuse line at 800-286-3932. Let's hope there is someone listening at the other end of this line.