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Audit finds Michigan Adult Protective Services needs improvement

Close-up of an elderly person in a hospital gown.
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Those in care homes, including elderly people and those who need full-time physical assistance, are typically the types of victims Michigan Adult Protective Services tries to help.

Michigan needs to do a better job of reporting suspected adult abuse to law enforcement, according to a recent report from the Michigan Auditor General. The audit examines the state’s Adult Protective Services.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services "did not always appropriately report APS complaints to law enforcement when actual or suspected criminal activity was alleged in the complaint,” the audit reads under its first finding.

Lewis Roubal is the chief deputy director for opportunity within the health department. His duties include overseeing Adult Protective Services.

He says there's a slight disagreement between how the audit and the agency interpret the law for reporting.

“We want to make sure that we’re referring things to law enforcement that they indeed want to see. We don’t want to send them over things that are inappropriate to send them that can be viewed as wasting the law enforcement resources," Roubal said. "We just want to make sure that we are being the most appropriate with our actions."

Roubal said the agency will work with its legal team and lawmakers to clear up any ambiguity in the law.

The audit found about 27% of complaints it reviewed that allege criminal misconduct were not passed along to law enforcement. It looked at almost 2.5 years of pre-pandemic data.

Overall, the audit found the agency to be “moderately effective” in three out of five objective areas.

Roubal said the audit is a chance for reflection.

“We had been taking a number of corrective actions prior to this report coming out, just through our own observations, as well as a result of the audit, so what stood out is really the importance of us to continue to review and improve upon what we do,” Roubal said.

One of the areas with the most room for improvement dealt with training for the intake staff who take and assign complaints. Roubal said that may have to do with the transition toward a centralized system to take calls years ago.

“I don’t know that at that time there was enough rigor put around conveying the importance of training,” Roubal said.

He said information from the audit will help with changes to the complaint-filing process.

“That comes back to us better structuring, and training, and monitoring that centralized intake experience, so I definitely think that that’s something that the residents that we engage with will certainly see," Roubal said.

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