Rep. Dan Noyes, D-Walcott, says Vermont’s adult protection laws have been behind the times for decades. Noyes is spearheading a bill, H.171, that would allow for more corrective justice and mediation.

One goal of the bill is to give Vermont’s Adult Protective Services a chance to sit down with victims before conducting an investigation. 

The laws that created Adult Protective Services in Vermont were enacted in 1979 and were centered around the stability of Vermont’s long-term care institutions. Under the law, APS almost solely interacted with the person who may be inflicting verbal or physical harm, not the victim.

With those institutions facing an acute staffing shortage, and an increasing number of vulnerable adults choosing to live out their lives at home, APS received around 3,600 calls and opened 876 investigations involving potential abuse in 2022. 

Now, Vermont’s APS Director John Gordon says his division is pleading with lawmakers to allow them to overhaul what they can do for the vulnerable. Gordon said he wants to give the vulnerable more rights and allow for their voices to be heard.”

Gordon says Vermont’s existing Adult Abuse Registry helps institutions and those seeking care to find a positive solution, but that can’t be the only remedy. 

“Individuals who are substantiating maltreatment, their names are placed on a registry,” Gordon said. “But that’s the only solution.”

Noyes hopes his bill will help solve some of the decades-old issues. 

“Older Vermonters should be able to direct their own lives,” Noyes said. “Allowing individuals to really be in charge of their own care and their own lives, and saying ‘how do you make your own decisions.” 

Vermont’s House on Human Services Committee, which Noyes sits on, is set to vote on the bill this week.