In Vermont, mandated reporters who are working or volunteering as “Crisis Workers” are specifically exempted from the mandate to report abuse to “vulnerable adults”. This means that state and federal law prohibit all “crisis workers” or advocates from sharing any information about a person, including a vulnerable adult, without permission in the form of a written “release of information”.
It is a good idea to discuss the issue of vulnerable adults with potential staff and volunteers because many people feel that abuse of vulnerable adults should be reported, even against the person’s wishes. Staff and volunteers need to understand their legal obligation to protect adults’ confidential information, regardless of whether or not an adult has a disability.
“Vulnerable adult” is a legal term in Vermont. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=33&Chapter=069&Section=06902 (14) “Vulnerable adult” means any person 18 years of age or older who:
- Is a resident of a facility required to be licensed under chapter 71 of this title;
- Is a resident of a psychiatric hospital or a psychiatric unit of a hospital;
- Has been receiving personal care services for more than one month from a home health agency certified by the Vermont department of health or from a person or organization that offers, provides, or arranges for personal care; or
- Regardless of residence or whether any type of service is received, is impaired due to brain damage, infirmities of aging, or a physical, mental, or intellectual disability:
- That results in some impairment of the individual’s ability to provide for his or her own care without assistance, including the provision of food, shelter, clothing, health care, supervision, or management of finances; or
- Because of the disability or infirmity, the individual has an impaired ability to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Whether or not a person is considered a “vulnerable adult” under the law can depend on the relationship between the person’s disability and the abuse, neglect, or exploitation she or he is experiencing. For example, a woman with a physical disability might be considered vulnerable if she were being physically abused, but not if she were being exploited financially.
Programs should discuss confidentiality and reporting with anyone who provides direct services to survivors.