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Elder Justice Act Protects Seniors

Guest Column from State Representative Stephanie Kunze
June 27, 2014
Republican Newsroom

The elderly often experience abuse that goes unnoticed, and according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, as many as two million elders are abused in the United States. In response to this startling statistic, the Ohio House of Representatives has been working on legislation to help this population. House Bill 49 is a piece of legislation crafted to help Ohio seniors by tracking, studying, and finding ways to prevent this abuse.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation and despair” to the elderly.  Abuse and neglect of Ohio’s seniors goes unnoticed every day and often goes unreported.

Due to this fact, House Bill 49, also know as the Elder Justice Act, was introduced. Through this legislation, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), would track elder abuse by creating a registry to log reported cases. This information would then be analyzed to find patterns and trends to reduce the cases of abuse and neglect.

Under this legislation, ODJFS must submit a report describing the process of starting the registry and document cost to both state and county Job and Family Service departments. Continuous training for protective service caseworkers is also a provision in HB 49, for workers who must report abuse.

Through the Elder Justice Act, the definition of elder abuse is expanded to include both abandonment and financial abuse. Currently, the definition only focuses on physical harm. Financial abuse to the elderly is becoming more common as modern technology advances and becomes abused by criminals.

Established in 2009, the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission will be added into state law through this bill. The new commission will raise awareness of elder abuse, strive to improve public policy, funding, and programming, and enhance the judicial response to elder abuse victims.

The Elder Justice Act is essential in defending seniors’ human rights.  By studying past crimes, expanding the definition of elder abuse, and adding the Elder Abuse Commission in statute our seniors will have further protections for their safety.  I support this legislation as it goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.