Gov. Pence’s commitment to most vulnerable doesn’t measure up
By: Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson)
“We also know that the true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable.”
These are Governor Mike Pence’s words.
They are honorable and upright. They are words that many, if not nearly all, Hoosiers would agree with.
Now examine Governor Pence and his administration’s record, specifically Adult Protective Services (APS) – under whose watch vulnerable adults have died – and the Department of Child Services (DCS) – plagued by chronic underfunding and case worker turnover.
These agencies and their staff are often the only voices abused and neglected Hoosiers have, and in Governor Pence’s Indiana, they have been relegated to the figurative backburner.
A recent, exhaustive and disturbing investigation by the Indianapolis Star underscored the governor’s repeated failure in protecting our most vulnerable. In graphic detail the investigation told stories of abuse, exploitation and too often the death of adults in the charge of APS. It told the story of overburdened case workers, resigned to the reality of their situation, that the need is just too great and resources too few. There are instances of two people investigating every case of elderly abuse or neglect over five counties. And it told the story of an agency and an administration entirely aware of its deficiencies but unwilling or unable to react swiftly and reform.
It’s a story we’ve heard before. An unwieldy bureaucracy charged with protecting the abused and neglected – in this case Hoosier children – grappling with too few resources and too much demand. Then as in now, the governor was slow to acknowledge glaring inadequacies. While the governor mulled action, case workers juggled the investigation of as many as 40 cases of child abuse and neglect per month. The legal limit is no more than 17.
Critics assert wholesale reform doesn’t come quickly. It certainly won’t come at all if the governor and legislative Republicans maintain this course of calculated risk, betting Hoosiers won’t notice underfunding of critical social services. The first step is reaffirming the most basic of commitments to protecting the vulnerable by funding needed APS caseworkers immediately.
We’re not talking about moving fiscal mountains, the needed funding is a pittance. It can get done. The governor has wide latitude over the management of the state’s budget. He could augment APS’s budget tomorrow.
It must get done and much more to rebuild the trust Hoosiers place in their government to protect those without a voice.
Sen. Lanane represents Indiana Senate District 25 which includes portions of Madison and Delaware counties, including the City of Muncie and the southeastern portion of the City of Anderson. For more information on Sen. Lanane, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/S25 .
NOTE: A photo of Sen. Tim Lanane can be downloaded at: https://www.indianasenatedemocrats.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Lanane.jpg