Law Office of John S. Palmer Attorney at Law

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Establishing Elder Justice Centers

Posted Monday, February 8, 2016 by John S. Palmer

A bill pending in the Washington legislature would create two pilot “elder justice centers” in Spokane and Clark counties, designed to coordinate state and local efforts to deal with the growing problem of abuse and neglect of the elderly.

The legislation—HB 2379—notes that complaints to Adult Protective Services have increased by 25% since 2008, and 21,000 reports of abuse and neglect were deemed worthy of investigation in 2013. The bill also includes findings that “national researchers believe the majority of cases go unreported out of embarrassment, confusion about what happened, or fear of being cut off from family or loved ones” and that efforts to deal with elder abuse and exploitation “lag many years behind the strides that have been made in child abuse awareness and protection.”

The bill would create two elder justice centers to coordinate responses by state and local agencies charged with investigating, prosecuting, preventing and treating the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of “vulnerable adults” defined under the state’s Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Act to include a person who is:

The centers would be modeled after children’s advocacy centers that have been established throughout the state and which have proven effective in dealing with child abuse. The state Department of Social and Health Services would provide funds for Clark and Spokane Counties to staff elder justice centers with a prosecutor, deputy sheriff, and victim advocate. DSHS would be required to file progress reports in 2017 and 2018, and a final report by December 2019 discussing the effectiveness of the pilot program and making recommendations for modifying or expanding it.

The bills has the support of the Elder Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association; it was approved for passage by the House Judiciary Committee January 28th and referred to the Appropriations Committee on February 1st.

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