While not a new concept to the justice system, Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) can be a critical difference in addressing elder abuse cases, by leveraging the various perspectives, expertise and resources of the various agencies and experts assembled as part of the team.
However, starting an EMDT — and then maintaining it — can be two very different challenges.
Join us for this two-part series (Part 1 and Part 2) as Peg Horan of the New York City Elder Abuse Center and Lindsay Calamia from Lifespan of Greater Rochester are here to discuss the intricacies of launching and managing elder abuse multi-disciplinary teams, including:
- How successful case review MDTs were launched around New York State in urban, suburban and rural communities
- Definitions of the different types of MDTs
- The fundamentals of a case review elder abuse Multidisciplinary Team, including role of MDT Coordinator, key partners, location, commitment and consistency, ground rules, meeting flow, and, importantly, case identification. “How to” and “Why to” articles included.
- Acknowledging and building on member talent
- Celebrating success
- Facilitating member disagreements, and
- How to assess the health of the team
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Lindsay you’re a new presenter for the Justice Clearinghouse. Tell us about yourself.
Lindsay Calamia: Well, I have an incredibly long job title – Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) Statewide Coordinator at Lifespan of Greater Rochester – but my position is also unique in that I support functioning elder abuse E-MDT’s and newly developing teams across New York State.
My boss jokingly refers to me as “The Coordinators’ Coordinator” because I primarily work with E-MDT Coordinators on the diverse aspects of developing, facilitating and sustaining an E-MDT throughout the state. This often includes providing various levels of assistance ranging from: educational tools and resources, case consultations, technical assistance, operational support, etc. I regularly participate on 9 local E-MDTs in the Finger Lakes region but also visit every upstate NY team on a regular basis.
Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) bring together a group of professionals
from diverse disciplines or agencies to address complex problems.
MDTs are collaborative by nature
and offer access to numerous professionals at one time to consult on a case,
provide recommendations and foster creative problem-solving.
JCH: Many people might not be as familiar with Multi-Disciplinary teams. Can you explain what MDTs are in general, and then explain their role with Elder Abuse cases?
Lindsay: Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) bring together a group of professionals from diverse disciplines or agencies to address complex problems. MDTs are collaborative by nature and offer access to numerous professionals at one time to consult on a case, provide recommendations and foster creative problem-solving.
Elder abuse MDTs are comprised of professionals from various disciplines whose focus is to investigate, intervene and prevent financial exploitation and elder abuse of older adults. Core team members often include adult protective services, aging services, financial institutions, local legal and law enforcement, and others identified by the team. Using a victim-centered approach, the primary focus is to provide relief to the victim at the earliest possible juncture, stop the abuse, and prevent further mistreatment or inappropriate use of funds. Together, team members achieve this through coordinated case reviews and tailored responses to each abuse situation.
The “enhanced” aspect of Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams (E-MDTs) refers to the access of specialty services provided by qualified forensic accountants, geriatric psychiatrists and civil legal service providers.
Funding opportunities are also increasing
through grants or state initiatives but utilizing the available resources
may offer more alternatives to hiring someone.
JCH: This sounds like an incredibly practical and logical way for addressing elder abuse cases! Why wouldn’t a community take the MDT approach?
Lindsay: It can be challenging (but not impossible!) to find someone to take on the MDT Coordinator role without dedicated funding for this position. Having an MDT Coordinator to manage the administrative and clinical operations is crucial for team development and sustainability but hiring a coordinator may not be realistic for many communities. However, the number of resources available for assistance and support with creating an MDT continues to grow at the state and federal level designed to help anyone interested in starting a team. Funding opportunities are also increasing through grants or state initiatives but utilizing the available resources may offer more alternatives to hiring someone.
JCH: Your subsequent webinar discusses how to manage existing multi-disciplinary teams for elder abuse cases. In your experience, what makes running an existing team different than starting a new EMDT?
Lindsay: Every community is different in terms of pre-existing collaboration between disciplines and professional relationships. This seems to be a common denominator regarding the level of development needed to transition from being a new team to becoming an existing team. For example, some communities may informally operate in a multidisciplinary fashion already so starting an MDT might only require bringing together those key professionals to formalize and structure the process. Other communities may be working in professional silos and need more time to build trust and become familiar with and MDT approach.
Some of the challenges involved with starting any new MDT may include: member recruitment, meeting logistics, case finding and professional development. It’s often helpful if a new team is able to start with a case review at their first meeting as this can reinforce the MDTs purpose and focus in a tangible way.
Existing teams are an amazing thing to be a part of because team members have developed a solid level of trust and keep each other accountable for the follow-up action items mutually agreed upon. They usually require less active facilitation and function more organically during the flow of case discussions. Some of the challenges existing teams may face include: member turnover, individual agency constraints, and maintaining sustainability. It’s important for existing MDTs to periodically evaluate their functioning as a team, identify areas for improvement and take time to celebrate successes.
As a caseworker, I truly resonated with the concept
that no single agency can do it alone.
JCH: What drew you to this line of work? And what keeps you motivated, given all that you see in the course of your career?
Lindsay: My background is in Adult Protective Services and Elder Abuse Prevention casework; which allowed me to participate as a member on local E-MDT’s and gain experience from the case presenter’s perspective. Elder abuse cases are incredibly complex, and the E-MDT environment provided a more holistic view and response to help address victim needs and promote safety. As a caseworker, I truly resonated with the concept that no single agency can do it alone!
It’s really hard to condense what keeps me motivated because it comes from an accumulation of a million little aspects I witness on a day-to-day level. The part I love most in my work is seeing improved outcomes for older victims achieved through successful team collaboration and service coordination. I’m often inspired by the creative approaches and resources teams come up with to address complicated and challenging situations. We are all learning from each other and building on the strengths and knowledge of each other’s expertise to intervene, stop and prevent elder abuse.