MONTPELIER — The state agency responsible for overseeing investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly residents has agreed to eliminate by Oct. 1 a backlog of 300 cases awaiting investigation by hiring staff, responding to calls with 48 hours, and establishing new procedures to avoid future problems.
Vermont Legal Aid and two advocacy groups had threatened to sue the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living if officials had not agreed to the corrective action plan signed Tuesday by advocates and Commissioner Susan Wehry.
Advocates became aware of the size of the backlog at a December meeting with state officials.
“It’s been a problem for years,’’ said attorney Barbara Prine of Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project. “People for the most part had lost faith in the adult protective system.’’
Wehry did not immediately respond yesterday to a request for comment.
The advocates said that the backlog was caused by limited staffing and that the situation was worsened by budget cuts at the department’s division of Adult Protective Services. In some cases abusive situations went months without being investigated.
Among the details in the corrective action plan:
■The state will hire additional temporary and permanent investigative staff to look into elder abuse cases.
■The backlog of complaints will be cleared by Oct. 1.
■The department must respond to all calls within 48 hours.
■The department must develop training materials for staff with input from advocates.
■Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont will monitor cases.