Thursday, February 3, 2022

Adult Protective Services investigated 1,662 exploitation cases in 2021

By ELI MELILLO | Public Information Officer, LDH Bureau of Media and Communications

In 2021, Adult Protective Services investigated 1,662 cases of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual or financial), neglect, exploitation or extortion of disabled adults between the ages of 18-59.

As part of the Louisiana Department of Health's Office of Aging and Adult Services, Adult Protective Services is responsible for investigating reports of abuse and arranging for services to protect these vulnerable adults. The impact of victimization of vulnerable adults is often detrimental to their long-term safety and stability and physical and mental health.

"It's a lasting effect that is seen throughout the community," said Adult Protection Specialist Supervisor Anona Bowie.

Human traffickers target potential victims throughout our communities, particularly those individuals residing in shelters, participating in out-patient treatment programs, interacting online with persons unknown to them, and other circumstances wherein the traffickers gain knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the victims. Human traffickers identify and target individuals with little or no familial involvement and lack of social interaction. The traffickers prey on vulnerable adults to gain access to their monthly financial benefits and sometimes to coerce or force the vulnerable adults into situations involving labor or sex trafficking. Human traffickers gain access and control of the victims' financial benefits but fail to provide the victim with basic needs other than housing. Often, even the housing provided by traffickers is inadequate to meet the needs of the victims.

Human trafficking victims with vulnerabilities or disabilities may exhibit limited mental capacity to make decisions, advocate for themselves or complete even the most basic activities of daily living independently. "Let's say the victim requires specific medical therapies … When the trafficker takes control, the individual may no longer have access to essential medical treatments or care — and money and other benefits intended for the individual are diverted to the trafficker. Consequently, the vulnerable adult goes without necessities such as access to medicine, healthy foods, and medical care," said Bowie.

Adult Protective Services Assistant Program Director Shannon Ioannou urges people to be vigilant and aware of peculiar changes within their neighborhoods and communities. Typically, multiple victims are housed in the same residence together and are frequently relocated by the traffickers to avoid suspicion by neighbors or other community members. Community members may notice these vulnerable adults publicly soliciting individuals for food and money or observe the victims being required to fulfill roles of manual labor or other tasks that appear to pose immediate risk of harm to adults. Victims may exhibit other behaviors such as trespassing, vagrancy and shoplifting, which are often actions indicative of possible human trafficking and exploitation of these vulnerable adults.

If you suspect abuse, neglect, exploitation or extortion of a vulnerable or disabled adult age 18-59, contact Adult Protective Services at our 24-hour hotline, 1-800-898-4910.

If you suspect abuse, neglect, exploitation, or extortion of adults age 60 or older, please contact Elderly Protective Services at 1-833-577-6532 or 225-342-0144.

Please contact 911 immediately for situations posing an imminent risk of harm to vulnerable adults.