What They’re Watching: Erica McFadden, PhD

Erica McFadden, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. The council released a report with policy recommendations for preventing sexual abuse of Arizonans with developmental and other disabilities. The report came in response to the recent incident at a Hacienda HealthCare intermediate-care facility, where an incapacitated patient under the hospital’s care gave birth.

McFadden joins us in this edition of What They’re Watching to talk about the status of those recommendations and what’s currently lacking in efforts to protect vulnerable adults.

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“The incident at Hacienda has actually had an unintended benefit. And that is to actually bring the different agencies together to collaboratively work on issues impacting Arizonans with disabilities, and including Arizonans with disabilities at the table.

So, it’s actually — in this crisis, there’s been an opportunity to actually make our system better. We’re actually up at the same table, looking at how to develop better training programs, requiring annual training for people who serve persons with disabilities — including older adults — and requiring that, in addition, posting requirements.

We’ve had several piece of legislation be introduced, and one actually has legs and has moved on. That’s Senate bill 1211. That requires intermediate care facilities to be state-licensed. And before, that wasn’t happening.

What we were also excited to see was that they’re requiring all organizations that are community-based, serving people with disabilities and vulnerable adults, that they have to go through an APS registry for a background check. That wasn’t required before, and so that was included in this bill.

I think the one missing piece in this whole thing is that we have to change the culture of care when it comes to working with vulnerable adults.

We’re always talking about, ‘OK, there needs to be training,’ which is great. I mean, training is definitely needed for families and individuals. But, we have this problem…less than half of direct-support people stay within an organization for a year at a time. Most of them turnover. And so, how are you going to recognize that somebody has a behavior change because of abuse?

Until we start addressing the direct-care workforce we have and how we can incentivize people to come into that field, how we can credential it — I think we’re going to continue to have problems, until we deal with the shortage.”