ARCHIVE: 3.2.c Decrease percentage of vulnerable adult abuse and neglect investigations open longer than 90 days from 23.2% to 12.05% by 6/30/2015

Why is this a priority?

By 2030, 20% of the state's population will be age 65 and over, and ensuring the safety of seniors and other adults who are vulnerable will become more challenging. Since 2008, reports of suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults have increased 62%. Abuse or neglect can occur in an individual's home or in licensed or certified settings (nursing homes, adult family homes, assisted living, and supported living for people with developmental disabilities) and includes:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Self-neglect
  • Financial exploitation
  • Abandonment

Some of the increase is due to better public awareness of the problem. Resolving investigations in a timely manner (less than 90 days) helps keep people safe and prevents abusers from caring for or working around other adults who are vulnerable.

How are we doing?

We take reports of abuse or neglect seriously and respond accordingly, including within 24 hours for urgent cases. However, resolving cases in a timely fashion is a challenge. Issues include:

  • Until spring 2014, the number of investigators had not kept up with the 62% increase in reports due to an outdated workload model.
  • Financial exploitation investigations have grown 96% between 2005 and 2013. Staff need specialized expertise to more quickly resolve these cases, which require working with financial institutions and other record holders.
  • Determining whether individuals have diminished capacity to make decisions about finances or health care is complex and time-consuming, requiring working with families and individuals on alternative decision making, and processing guardianships and protective orders.
  • Meeting the measure of 12.05% is attainable assuming adequate staffing levels are reached, in the meantime, interim goals have been set in the field.

What are we working on?

We are:

  • Increasing the number of investigators by using an updated staffing model for investigators that keeps up with the level of increased workload, and aggressive hiring to mitigate vacancies (in-home cases).
  • Applying Lean management principles to streamline intake and investigations.
  • Analyzing why cases take longer than 90 days to resolve, if they are open without "good cause" (cases remain open for good cause when a law enforcement investigation or prosecution is ongoing or guardianships are being sought).
  • Using temporary measures such as reassigned staff or overtime to address backlogs.
  • Implementing modern data systems to track abuse and abusers.
  • Improving prioritization and timely response. The same response times are now required for cases whether they occur in-home or in facilities.
  • Partnering with stakeholders and advocates to identify important issues we can work on together.
  • Requesting new funding for dedicated staff for financial exploitation and processing guardianships and protective orders.
  • Developing workload metrics and benchmarks for facility-based intakes and investigations, and requesting new funding to provide adequate staffing.

How can you help?

  • If you suspect abuse or neglect of a person living in their own home, please call 1-866-END-HARM (1-866-363-4276)
  • If you suspect abuse or neglect of a person living in a nursing home, adult family home, assisted living, or other residential setting, contact the Complaint Resolution Unit at 1-800-562-6078
  • To learn more about adult abuse and neglect, please visit our website at:

For a more detailed look into the data that feeds this measure, as well as additional time periods and regional data (where available) please visit DSHS's Executive Management Information System (EMIS) (note: link will open or download an Excel spreadsheet)

Reported by: Department of Social and Health Services