Beginning June 30, the state’s elder abuse reporting law will funnel all abuse reports into a new call center that will operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Earlier this year, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) issued a bid to solicit bidders for call answering and processing services for the EOEA Elder Abuse Hotline. The intake of elder abuse reports is a critical component of the Elder Protective Services program. State law requires that EOEA maintain a system for the intake of elder abuse reports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
For many years, EOEA has contracted with Holy Family Hospital to operate the Elder Abuse Hotline during non-business hours.
During business hours, the 20 Protective Services Agencies took reports. EOEA said that during the operation of this intake system, they noted several serious design issues including: confusion among elder abuse reporters regarding which phone number to call (there were 21 phone numbers); callers who dial one of the two 800 numbers operated by EOEA sometimes land in an endless phone loop; the system failed repeatedly during weather emergencies. Additionally, Holy Family Hospital notified EOEA in the fall that they would not be renewing their contract for the non-business hours operation of the Elder Abuse Hotline.
In order to find a new vendor for the non-business hours Elder Abuse Hotline and address the programmatic issues with the current intake model, the state required bidders to provide a quote for the provision of hotline services during non-business hours and a separate proposal for the provision of hotline services on a 24 hour/7 day a week basis. EOEA chose to expand the hotline from non-business hours, to the 24 hour model, and to increase the hotline’s current funding from $300,000 to an estimated $2 million. All reports taken by the central intake line will be referred to the local Protective Services Agency for screening and investigation if warranted. Local PS Agencies will no longer be the receiving reports of elder abuse. Callers seeking to report elder abuse to local PS Agencies will be given a “warm transfer” to the central hotline unit.
EOEA says it received several bids, including one from an existing Protective Services agency. After completing its review process, EOEA selected the bid submitted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, through its U Health Solutions Call Center, to operate the Elder Abuse Hotline on a 24 hour/7 day a week basis.
According to EOEA, UMass provides a state of the art call center, advanced technology and systems for completing individual calls, a robust quality assurance process, and an experienced team. They are well positioned to effectively receive intake calls beginning in July. EOEA entered into exclusive contract negotiations with the University of Massachusetts Medical School for the operations of the Elder Abuse Hotline.
Because the elder abuse program is subject to appropriation, to fund the hotline, EOEA reduced funding to the PS Agencies by a total of $4 million for FY 18—half of that going to the expanded hotline, which is expected to handle 30,000 calls in FY 18. Total contract dollars available to the PS Agencies were estimated to be $28.4 million in FY 17, and will drop to $24.33 million in FY 18. The final PS budget for FY 17 is projected to be roughly $2.7 million in deficit. The total budget for Protective Services in FY 18 is around $29.2 million.
According to EOEA, the centralization of the intake function to a single vendor on a 24 hour a day basis will simplify the process for elder abuse reporters since all calls (day or night) will go directly to 1-800-922-2275, regardless of the location of the reporter or the elder. EOEA has pledged to work closely with the ASAP network and other partners to develop a comprehensive transition plan. This plan will include operational procedures and communication strategies required to ensure and support a smooth transition.
SOURCE: Mass Home Care, July 2017 Newsletter