Calls to boost protection for older Texans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

By Mary Kuhlman

Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas – The number of Texans age 65 and over is expected to double by 2030, and advocacy groups say increased investments by the state would help ensure they are protected from exploitation. 

It’s estimated that older adults in the U.S. are exploited for tens of billions of dollars each year. Adult Protective Services is Texas’ “top cop” for investigating these crimes, as well as cases of abuse and neglect.

However, Tim Morstad, associate state director of AARP Texas, contends state APS employees are overworked and underpaid.

“Adult Protective Services needs fairly compensated caseworkers and investigators who have reasonable caseloads so they can go out and make sure that older Texans are being treated fairly,” Morstad said.

Agency leaders, as well as advocacy groups like AARP, are asking state lawmakers to provide about $17 million for APS this legislative session, to be used to increase pay and help retain staff. APS investigated more than 51,000 confirmed cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation in the fiscal year 2017.

Morstad explained that two years ago, lawmakers addressed a similar funding crisis at Child Protective Services and increased its funding. According to Morstad, those caseworkers now earn about $12,000 more each year than APS employees. 

“As soon as that pay increase went into effect, there was a significant uptick in the turnover rate at Adult Protective Services. And we know where they’re going,” he said. “They’re going across the hall in the same agency to get paid more to perform a similar function.”

During the 2017 state legislative session, the House approved a $10 million funding boost for APS, but the Senate did not agree. Morstad noted the problems at the agency have only grown since then.

“The $17.2 million is a small fraction of the money that’s available to the Legislature,” he said. “The state is in a much better fiscal position than it was two, four or even six years ago.”

He said after the pay increase for Child Protective Services, caseworker turnover was cut nearly in half.