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The Vision of the Adult Advocacy Centers

November 22, 2019

By Guest Writer Diana Spore, PhD, MGS

This is the first in a series of blogs from Dr. Spore about the importance of the Adult Advocacy Centers’ work.

With the development of the Adult Advocacy Centers, individuals with disabilities – for whom abuse and other forms of victimization are alleged – will receive needed services that are equally accessible and holistic. Strong and collaborative partnerships will be forged with multiple agencies and service providers, with the intent to coordinate investigation, prosecution, and treatment services. Services are to be person-centered, trauma-informed, disability-specific, and inclusive of all disabilities. The vision is one of finding solutions, serving as a hub with regard to coordination and communication, building on what has worked, and helping to fill in gaps to better meet the complex needs of individuals with disabilities who have been neglected, abused, or exploited. Through collaborative efforts, those with disabilities, who have been victimized, may not slip through the cracks or be re-traumatized inadvertently.

There have been and continue to be inequities or disparities in how individuals with disabilities, who have been abused, are perceived and served at state, national, and international levels. Again, it is the vision of the Adult Advocacy Centers to ensure equality and – in effect – empowerment of vulnerable adults with disabilities.

ADA Definition of Disability

So how do the Adult Advocacy Centers define “disability”? The Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) (1990, amended in 2008) definition of disability is used. Specifically, disability refers to a mental or physical impairment that markedly limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being viewed as having this form of impairment. Major life activities include being able to care for oneself, learning, concentrating, making decisions, managing medications, handling financial transactions, memory retention, ambulating, eating, sleeping, and lifting. To be defined as “disabled,” it is not required to have any additional impairments in engaging in these types of activities, beyond the one driving the criterion. The determination of disability (marked or substantial limitation in at least one major life activity) is not grounded in whether or not certain measures can or have been implemented to lessen the inability to engage in this activity. Examples of measures that can be adopted – that do not “take away” the designation of having a disability – include medication and behavioral modification/training.

Disability, as defined, is not having a diagnostic label or disabling condition, underlying what may be causal factors for disabilities (for example, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, stroke, depression, psychosis). One’s ability to “function” is affected by social and situational factors as well as by physical health issues. Therefore, it makes sense to have a holistic approach drive service provision to those individuals with disabilities who have been targeted and been victims of crime.

Current and Future Plans for Implementation of the “Operationalized” Vision

The operationalization of the vision is basically five-pronged:

  1. To have 10 regionally located centers across Ohio, starting in Columbus (pilot site to be launched in 2022 or 2023);
  2. To provide multi-focused services to adult crime victims who have disabilities;
  3. To focus on training those who will be providing services (e.g., those engaged in investigation and criminal justice);
  4. To have disability-specific multidisciplinary teams that will develop or adapt evaluations, protocols, and treatment plans;
  5. To have a mobile forensic interview team and a mobile Adult Advocacy Center.

One major focus has been set into motion – specifically, developing a protocol and providing targeted training in forensic interviewing, which will take place at ONE time. Please refer to information about Project FIND (Forensic Interviewing Individuals with Disabilities) in a blog by Katherine Yoder, “Ohio’s new interview process for victims of crime leads to creation of Adult Advocacy Centers.”

Focus for the Next Set of Blog Entries

Subsequent blog entries will address what this work and what the definition of disability means for seniors for whom neglect, abuse, and exploitation have been suspected and alleged. What types of alliances need to be forged and/or strengthened, to build on what is already being done? What can the Adult Advocacy Centers do next to better serve seniors who are designated as being “disabled?” The issue of cognitive impairment will be addressed. What does it mean for reporting abuse, for being viewed as accurate reporters, for the need to have others – in addition to mandated reporters – report suspected abuse (e.g., the need for training). Finally, there is a need to address what vulnerable and dependent seniors may fear if reports are filed. Notably, seniors with mental illnesses and/or dementia are more likely to be victims of crime, to be targeted when criminal behavior occurs, to continue being victimized across time. They are also more likely to be both victims and perpetrators, particularly in the nursing home setting

Diana Spore is an advocate for individuals facing mental health challenges and those who are living with dementia, a writer/editor, and a mental health consumer in recovery. Spore received her Master’s degree in Gerontological Studies from Miami University (Ohio), and earned a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies, with a concentration in aging, from Penn State. She completed postdoctoral training at Brown University. Spore’s areas of expertise include mental health and aging, mental health recovery and trauma-informed care, medication optimization, long-term care, caregiving, and psychotropic drug use and inappropriate drug use among older adults. She is a former Board member of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County (Ohio; MHRB). She was Editor-of-Chief of TAPESTRY OF OUR LIVES, an anthology of works created by individuals in recovery, a project that was done under the auspices of the MHRB. Spore served as Project Lead for a “Writing for Recovery” initiative, MHRB, and engaged in all aspects of the project, which has resulted in sustained spin-off efforts. Currently, she is a consultant at the MHRB, and serves as a facilitator of a “writing for recovery” writing group, which is under the auspices of Catholic Charities’ Pathways Peer Support Program, Ashland. Diana Spore has expertise in creative writing, writing for recovery, journaling for caregivers, legacy writing, and advocacy writing.


A note from Steve Stone, Executive Director of the Ashland Mental Health and Recovery Board, about Tapestry of Our Lives:

For the past several years, a small yet dedicated group of writers has gathered to explore ways to use writing for overcoming life’s challenges, improving the quality of life and building social connections with others who share a desire to become “a writer in recovery.” Tapestry of Our Lives is the result of their hard work. Additionally, the works in this anthology are rooted in adverse life experiences and childhood trauma, such as physical, sexual or psychological abuse or severe neglect. Tapestry of Our Lives explores these difficult issues, empowering writers to explore the use of writing as a tool to promote their own recovery and to share their experiences with others. Readers are challenged to listen and respond with understanding, empathy and warmth. We invite the community to join us as we seek to foster a community that understands trauma and its effects, and provides an environment that promotes healing and recovery for those who are hurting.