Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has announced the end of an investigation into the elder abuse hotline after a number of changes have been made to the system.

The investigation was opened in May, days after a joint investigation by the Missourian and KBIA revealed that less than half of the 92,000 calls made to the hotline in 2018 had been answered. That number got even worse early this year, when only 39% of calls were answered between January and April.

The statement from the attorney general’s office noted the role played by KBIA and the Missourian in prompting the investigation and offered a number of recommended changes, noting that some had already been implemented.

Most significantly, Missouri has joined a long list of states to offer the option to report online. While some states only offer online reporting to mandated reporters, Missouri has made it available to the public as well.

Some of the primary issues reported on in the May investigation were a lack of funding to increase hotline staffing, a maximum of four people on hold at any time, lengthy wait times and inaccurate internal reporting because of not including numbers of dropped or disconnected calls.

This last issue is particularly significant because of many people hanging up over lengthy wait times and led to the Department of Health & Senior Services believing it had a call handle rate of 99.8%, rather than the roughly 50% that was reported.

“Protecting our state’s most vulnerable is an important duty of my office, and ensuring that state resources are effectively helping those vulnerable citizens falls under that duty,” Schmitt said in the news release

Some of the recommended changes include more accurate internal reporting, allowing more people to be on hold, instituting the use of a script for calls and scheduling so that more call handlers are available during peak hours.

The hotline is available from 7 a.m. until midnight 365 days a year and can be reached at 800-392-210. Online reporting can be submitted any time at www.health.mo.gov/abuse/.

  • State Government Reporter, Fall 2019 Studying news reporting Reach me at imm5yc@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700

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