Ohio Elder Justice Act to protect finances, well-being of seniors

Source: Examiner
Author: John Michael Spinelli

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined State Representatives Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) and Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) Thursday to announce that they will push for passage of the Ohio Elder Justice Act, legislation designed protect older Ohioans from abuse and financial exploitation.

Ohio Elder Justice Act

House Bill 49 is intended to strengthen the existing Adult Protective Services Law and will improve the response to elder abuse incidents and encourage reporting of elder abuse cases.

“I am pleased to continue my partnership with Attorney General DeWine to reform Ohio’s adult protective services law,” Rep. Dovilla said in prepared remarks. “By making long-overdue changes to this statute, we will take critically important steps to defend some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Mr. Dovilla said this legislation is an effort to update Ohio’s outdated definitions pertaining to elder abuse, which according to current law largely defines “elder abuse” as physical abuse. But with financial exploitation of seniors on the rise, bill sponsors said it will help ensure the life savings and homes of Ohio’s seniors are protected.

Specifically, the bill will expand the definition of “elder abuse” to include financial harm; create a registry to identify and track patterns of elder abuse; provide ongoing, comprehensive training for caseworkers and develop educational materials for mandatory reporters; and make permanent the Elder Abuse Commission to improve public policy, funding and programming, as well as the judicial response to elder abuse victims.

“With the increase of fraud and abuse in today’s society, we need to ensure that we protect those who are most vulnerable,” Rep. Retherford added. “The elderly are no exception. I look forward to working with Rep. Dovilla and the Attorney General in updating our elder abuse protection laws to meet the needs of today.”

Approximately 13 percent (about 1.5 million) of Ohio’s 11.3 million residents are age 65 or older, according to available 2010 Census figures.

House Bill 49 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for hearings.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission, established in 2009, provided many of the recommendations included in the legislation, Ohio’s AG office said.

“We need to do everything we can do protect our senior citizens from both physical and financial harm,” Ohio AG DeWine said. “We are pleased that representatives Dovilla and Retherford are working towards turning these recommendations into law.”

Key provisions in the Ohio Elder Justice Act include:

• The requirement of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to create a registry to help identify patterns of reported abuse.

• The obligation of employees in various financial service industries to report suspected elder abuse to help prevent the elderly from falling victim to financial crimes.

• The establishment of a statewide Elder Abuse Commission, which will increase awareness and research, formulate and recommend strategies to improve policy, funding and programming, and identify opportunities to coordinate statewide efforts to address elder abuse.

“As we continue to care for the ‘greatest generation’ and as the ‘baby boomer’ generation reaches 65, it is imperative that we promote awareness of elder abuse and establish safeguards that protect our loved ones,” Rep. Retherford added.

The Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission is also requesting input from the community regarding additional ways to better protect Ohio’s senior citizens. Those with comments can submit them through the Ohio Attorney General’s Website.