AUSTIN, Texas - Some say the agency that cares for Texas' most vulnerable adults needs help. Staff turnover and workloads are high, while pay is low at Adult Protective Services.
"If your caseload is unmanageable, or if you're in a situation where you're going to have to make prioritization decisions, there is a possibility that something is going to fall through the cracks," said Kezeli Wold, associate commissioner at Adult Protective Services.
Caseworkers at the agency currently have an average of 28 cases per worker. Wold says that's only expected to rise as Baby Boomers continue to age.
Leadership at APS is calling for more workers and resources to keep the workers they already have.
"Staff that come in, are hired, and are trained, within that first year, 47 percent of them are turning over," Wold said.
APS workers are tasked to handle some of the most stressful of situations -- often alone.
Case Manager Martha Guerrero has been on the ground for APS for the past five years, and says it's more than just a job.
"It makes me feel I'm doing something. I'm making a difference," Guerrero said.
Guerrero said she has a persistance to keep helping as many people as she can, but she has a message for lawmakers.
"Don't take us for granted," Guerrero said. "We still need you. Give us more."
Some say Adult Protective Services doesn't have enough resources for workers like Guerrero to do their jobs effectively.
"I'm very concerned about the ability of our APS caseworkers to continue to properly serve these clients with such a high turnover and case load," said Hank Whitman, Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner at a hearing before state lawmakers last month.
There are those that say the situation at APS has led to tragic results.
"Things didn't turn out the way they were supposed to turn out," said Anthony Brown, a former Adult Protective Services worker who now serves as president of the Texas State Employees Union.
His brother, Andrew Brown Jr., suffered from schizophrenia. When Andrew Brown got a lung infection, he refused to go to the hospital. And as his brother got worse, Anthony Brown called Adult Protective Services to step in.
"He slipped through the cracks," Anthony Brown said.
Even with his knowledge of how APS works and after repeated calls and emails, Anthony Brown said the agency was still slow to respond. Two weeks after Anthony Brown said he first contacted APS, his brother was dead.
"The agency [doesn't] have the tools to do effective work," Anthony Brown said.
While APS won't comment on a specific case, the associate commissioner for Adult Protective Services said improvements do need to be made to avoid tragedy, and lawmakers are urged to chip in more resources.
Last legislative session, Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) attempted to cap caseloads at Adult Protective Services at 22 cases per worker. The legislation called for an additional 413 caseworkers to be hired by 2019 at a cost of about $142 million more for the agency through 2022.
That bill never made it to the House floor for a vote.