Columbia, SC (WLTX) A new audit of the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs says the agency can do more to protect vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The agency serves about 13,000 people in residential facilities and day programs.
The Legislative Audit Council report says the agency can lower abuse, neglect, and exploitation by setting up a central adult abuse registry listing all the names of people found to have abused, neglected, or exploited a vulnerable adult.
DDSN spokesperson Lois Park Mole says, "This is something that we've studied a couple of times, and while the idea of a registry is a very good one, it's one of those that's not quite as easy to put into place as it may sound."
She says the problem comes in when someone has been accused of something but is fighting the allegation. She says, "Where the rub comes in is, how does a person's name get on that list? Does it have to be substantiated? Does it, in addition to being substantiated, does that person have to have gone through due process with the court?"
The audit also recommends putting cameras in common areas to help reduce abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It says not only would cameras protect consumers, they would also protect innocent caregivers wrongly accused of abuse or neglect.
But Mole says, "We want to err on the side of safety of the individuals receiving services. At the same time, they do have privacy rights."
The audit also recommends running a national background check on every person applying for a job as a caregiver. DDSN runs checks on some people now.
Mole says all of these recommendations have merit and the agency will look at them. Most of the changes would require action by state lawmakers, and the agency will do whatever lawmakers say.