The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) expunges, or removes, unsubstantiated allegations investigated and abuse reports screened out, along with associated case notes of alleged abuse of elderly people and other corresponding documentation, from the Adult Protective Services (APS) system one year and one day after the determination is made by a supervisor at the protective-service agency (PSA). APS does keep a report on expungement of abuse reports and investigations that includes basic case information such as the intake or investigation identification, the PSA, and the date the PSA received the report of alleged abuse, but excludes any personally identifiable information involved in the case.
Section 23(b) of Chapter 19A of the Massachusetts General Laws states,
If the department, any designated agency, or any other agency obligated to make an assessment under this chapter determines that the allegations in a report cannot be substantiated, it shall within 3 years of such determination, either (i) destroy said report and any other records containing personal data created because of the receipt of said report or (ii) physically remove therefrom all personal identifiers; provided, however, that the department, the designated agency or any other agency obligated to make assessments may create and hold whatever statistical records it needs for purposes of planning and reporting.
Further, Section 5.20(11) of Title 651 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR)16 states,
The Department and Protective Services Agencies shall expunge all Personal Data within its control regarding a Data Subject where a report of alleged Abuse cannot be substantiated. The Holder shall, within three months of such determination:
(a) Destroy said report and any other records containing Personal Data created because of receipt of said report; or
(b) Physically remove therefrom all personal identifiers; provided however, that the agency holding Personal Data obligated to investigate may create and hold whatever statistical records it needs for purposes of planning and reporting.
We believe that there is a significant risk that allegations of serious abuse could be expunged from APS because of a determination that a report was unsubstantiated, when in fact the report could have warranted an investigation. Additionally, the expungement of this information could hinder EOEA’s ability to identify repeat offenders or victims.
We recommend that EOEA work with the state Legislature to consider extending the length of required retention for unsubstantiated investigation information and screened-out report information in APS.
In its response to this issue, EOEA stated, “EOEA will explore the merits of extending existing timeframes.”
|Date published:||October 9, 2018|