CARSON CITY, NEV. — Effective July 1, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD) received legislative authority to receive and investigate reports of abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation or abandonment for vulnerable persons age 18-59, in addition to persons 60 years and older, collectively referred to as vulnerable adults. The Elder Protective Services (EPS) program is now referred to as Adult Protective Services (APS). Adult Protective Services serves all of Nevada and has offices in Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City and Elko.
Nevada Revised Statutes define a vulnerable person as a person 18 years of age or older who suffers from a condition of physical or mental incapacitation because of a developmental disability, organic brain damage or mental illness; or has one or more physical or mental limitations that restrict the ability of the person to perform the normal activities of daily living.
“Abuse is a growing concern for the vulnerable adult population, both in urban and rural areas all around the country,” said Tammy Sever, Chief of Adult Protective Services. “It is our mission, with legislative authority, to assist those at risk who are abused, neglected, exploited, isolated or abandoned by investigating, providing or arranging for services to alleviate and prevent further maltreatment while safeguarding their civil liberties.”
During the 2020 state fiscal year (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020), APS received over 10,000 allegations of vulnerable adult abuse in Nevada. According to the Administration on Aging, for every reported case of abuse there are five more that go unreported, meaning there were likely over 50,000 cases in Nevada last year.
According to the American Psychological Association, “The quality of life of individuals who experience abuse is severely jeopardized, as they often experience worsened functional and financial status and progressive dependency, poor self-rated health, feelings of helplessness and loneliness and increased psychological distress. Research also suggests that older persons who have been abused tend to die earlier than those who have not been abused, even in the absence of chronic conditions or life-threatening disease.”
Signs of abuse in vulnerable adults includes inadequately explained bruises, cuts or burns, dehydration or malnutrition, overly-medicated or extremely sedated, unusual confinement, lack of cleanliness/grooming, fear of speaking for oneself in the presence of a caretaker, anxiety or confusion and sudden change in financial activity such as unusual cash withdrawals.
Any person may report an incident of abuse if they have reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult has been abused, neglected, exploited, isolated or abandoned by calling 702-486-6930 in Las Vegas or 888-729-0571 in all other areas of Nevada. All information received as a result of a report is maintained as confidential. If a vulnerable adult is in immediate danger, the local police, sheriff’s office or emergency medical service should be contacted.
Once a case is open, it is assigned to an APS Social Worker. The social worker will provide intervention steps to assist the vulnerable adult and may refer the case to law enforcement based on their findings of the investigation.