North Dakota Protection & Advocacy Project
Current Priorities & Resources: Agency Priorities: Abuse & Neglect
In 1975, after becoming aware of the inhumane conditions at Willowbrook, a New York State institution for persons with developmental disabilities, Congress recognized that a federally-directed system of legal advocacy was necessary to address the abuse and neglect of persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities and established a nation-wide protection and advocacy system. In following years, Congress recognized the same concerns existed for people with mental illness and other types of disabilities and expanded the authority of the federally- established protection and advocacy system.
While great progress was made in addressing concerns and the work of the protection and advocacy system has expanded to include other issues, studies conducted in the late 1990's led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to conclude that abuse and neglect of vulnerable Americans continued to be a major health care concern.
Today, we continue to read stories in the national media exposing cases of abuse and neglect that result in illness, death, and torture of people with disabilities. Nation-wide, the protection and advocacy system has processed thousands of complaints of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
In North Dakota, P&A has primary responsibility to address complaints of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. In fiscal year 2011, P&A processed 1600 complaints of abuse and neglect. P&A responds to complaints with information, referrals, investigations, facility monitoring, and protective services. P&A also works proactively to train service provider staff and individuals with disabilities to recognize and report incidents of abuse and neglect.
P&A collaborates and works closely with Child Protective Services, Vulnerable Adult Protective Services, the Long Term Care Ombudsman, and others to ensure that all abuse and neglect complaints of people with disabilities are appropriately addressed. A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of people with disabilities. They include:
- Dependence on others for basic needs, such as bathing, using the toilet, meal preparation, etc. Individuals may also need help with money management, transportation, and obtaining medical and dental care. This reliance on others to assist with activities of daily living increases a person's vulnerability and exposure to abuse and neglect.
- Socialization to comply with the instructions of "those in charge," whether they are professionals, in-home workers, volunteers or family members. If the "person in charge" is physically or sexually abusive or neglectful, this learned compliance undermines the person's power to seek protection or support.
- Living in group or institutional settings. It is important for staff at these facilities to receive adequate training in the care and treatment of individuals with disabilities, as well as information on recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect. Facilities also need to provide enough supervision that incidents of physical or sexual abuse do not occur.
Historically, people with disabilities have been discriminated against because of their disabilities, seen as incapable and helpless, separated from society-at-large and denied opportunities for education and other life experiences. Misperceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities also put people with disabilities at an increased risk to experience abuse and neglect.
Committee on Protection & Advocacy (78kb pdf)
P&A's state laws including definitions, authority and mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The Guardianship Handbook: A guide for Court-Appointed Guardians in North Dakota
Information about guardianship, alternatives to guardianship and answers to frequently asked questions.
National Disability Rights Network
The national association for protection and advocacy systems site provides information on abuse and neglect specific to people with disabilities.
Victim Assistance Academy for North Dakota (VAAND) (126kb pdf)