Legislators Still Struggling for Consensus on DCS Hotline Improvements
Proposals to decentralize some or all of call center would cost $20M-57M
Statehouse (wibc.com photo by Eric Berman)
Legislators face a multi-million-dollar decision as they ponder how to upgrade the state's child abuse hotline.
Democrats want local hotlines to replace the new centralized Department of Child Services (DCS) call center that's been criticized for keeping callers waiting and being too quick to rule complaints unfounded.
DCS says it would cost $41 million dollars to establish hotlines in every county, and keeping the price tag even that low would require handing off the overnight shift to police.
Republicans have proposed a two-track hotline system, with regional hotlines established for judges and other trained professionals, while the general public would still call the current hotline. That would cost half as much, but former Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro complains the rerouted callers may have better information than the professionals.
Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle) worries the proposal to hand off third-shift calls to police would saddle local communities with training costs. DCS didn't calculate that cost.
Holdman bristled at Representative Vanessa Summers' (D-Indianapolis) accusation that Holdman is offering "more excuses not to help the best interest of the child than you are giving us reasons how to work it out."
"I'm trying to present some solutions here. We don't need to go there, okay?" Holdman shot back.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) says it's hard to tell just what the gain in safety would be from spending the extra $21 million to establish local hotlines, but says it's better to have too much protection for children than too little.
The study committee includes eight legislators from both parties along with 12 non-legislators. Members did reach tentative agreement to recommend turning the panel into a permanent oversight committee, and to immediately notify judges of any new abuse or neglect allegations against caregivers already under investigation.
The panel plans one last meeting November 27 to finalize its recommendations.
The committee is expected to have one new member for that final meeting. Holdman's co-chair, Representative Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis), lost her reelection bid by 44 votes Her term will end a week before the panel reconvenes.