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Vulnerable Adult Protection and Maltreatment Investigation By: Cook County Public Health and Human Services

Vulnerable Adult Protection and Maltreatment Investigation By: Cook County Public Health and Human Services

County Connections Cook County Public Health & Human Services

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COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA October 13, 2019  (LSN) Maltreatment including neglect and financial exploitation, is experienced by 1 out of every 10 people, ages 60 and older, who live at home. This statistic is likely an underestimate because many victims are unable or afraid to disclose or report the violence. Cook County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) has a role in creating safety for vulnerable adults by connecting them with resources and supportive services. PHHS is also responsible for investigating reports of adults who have been maltreated. 

What is the County’s role in protecting vulnerable adults?

It is the statutory responsibility of Cook County PHHS to provide Adult Protective Services and to respond to reports of suspected maltreatment of vulnerable adults made under the Vulnerable Adult Act.  Adult Protective Services include intake, response to emergency adult protective service notifications, investigations, and safety planning to remediate and prevent maltreatment experienced by vulnerable adults.

Cook County PHHS receives reports of maltreatment of vulnerable adults from the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center, or MAARC.  MAARC is a statewide call center with staff available to accept adult maltreatment reports 24/7, 365 days/year.  MAARC staff document each report in a centralized database and send reports to the appropriate lead investigative agency.  The centralized system allows for more efficient response, data analysis and enhances the ability for reporters to remain completely anonymous when making a report if they so choose.  

What is a vulnerable adult?

MN Statute 626.5572 defines vulnerable adults within two categories, categorical and functional.  A categorical vulnerable adult is any person 18 years of age or older who is a resident or inpatient of a facility or receives services from a provider listed within the statute, including foster care, assisted living services, and home care services.  A functional vulnerable adult is any person 18 years of age or older who, regardless of residence or whether any type of service is received, possesses a physical or mental infirmity or other physical, mental or emotional dysfunction that impairs the individual’s ability to provide adequately for the individual’s own care without assistance, including the provision of food, shelter, clothing, health care or supervision; and because of the individual’s dysfunction or infirmity and the need for care or services, the individual has an impaired ability to protect his or herself from maltreatment.

What is maltreatment?

MN Statute 626.5572 defines three types of maltreatment: abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. 

  • Abuse may include physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. 
  • Neglect may include caregiver neglect or self-neglect.  Caregiver neglect is defined as the failure of a caregiver to supply a vulnerable adult with care or services, including but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, health care or supervision which is: 1) reasonable and necessary to obtain or maintain the vulnerable adult’s physical or mental health or safety and which is 2) not the result of an accident or therapeutic conduct.  Self-neglect can occur when a vulnerable adult demonstrates an inability to adequately care for his or herself in a manner that maintains his or her physical or mental health or safety. 
  • Financial exploitation may include theft or withholding of money or property and/or use of the vulnerable adult’s money or property not for the vulnerable adult's benefit.

How many reports of alleged maltreatment were investigated in Cook County?

From July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, Cook County PHHS received 25 reports of maltreatment of vulnerable adults from the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center.  Of the 25 reports received, 15 reports were opened for an investigation.  PHHS can choose to screen out a report of maltreatment for various reasons, including if: the alleged victim does not meet the definition of a vulnerable adult, similar or same reports have been received regarding the alleged victim and an investigation is already pending, or another county is responsible for completing the investigation, as the alleged victim is not a Cook County resident or living in Cook County at the time of the alleged abuse. 

Of the 15 reports opened for investigation by Cook County PHHS from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, 4 of the reports included allegations of caregiver neglect, 8 included allegations of self-neglect, 4 included allegations of financial exploitation, 2 included allegations of emotional/mental abuse, and 1 included an allegation of physical abuse.  Each report may contain more than one allegation of abuse, and therefore, the number of allegations is higher than the number of reports opened for investigation. 

Building safety for vulnerable adults

The safety of the vulnerable adult is always the primary concern and achieving safety, the primary goal of Adult Protective Services.  Cook County PHHS works to provide education and support to all parties involved in a maltreatment report, as allegations are oftentimes the result of a vulnerable adult or his or her caregiver being unaware of the resources available to them.  Maltreatment investigations often provide an opportunity for individuals to be connected with much-needed services that help them live their lives the way in which they choose to live. 

If you suspect a vulnerable adult is suffering from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, please call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 844-880-1574. 

Learn more about the protection of vulnerable adults and the PHHS department at the October 15th PHHS Board Meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the Cook County Commissioners Room. Follow us on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS to learn more about resources for older adults and people with disabilities in Cook County.

By: Cook County Public Health and Human Services

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

By: Cook County Sheriff’s Office in collaboration with the Cook County Attorney’s Office



About Cook County Minnesota

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Cook County is at the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead region in the remote northeastern part of the state, stretching from the shores of Lake Superior to the US-Canada border. By land it borders Ontario, Canada to the north, and Lake County, MN to the west.  The highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain is 2,301 feet and the highest lake,  Total Area equals 3,339.72 sq miles

Cook County is home to three national protected areas:
Grand Portage National Monument
Superior National Forest
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Cook County include:
 Grand Marais     Lutsen Mountains
 Gunflint Trail      Superior Hiking Trail
 Grand Portage 

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