Thursday, March 27, 2008

California Panel Approves Wolk Bill to Increase Reporting to Elder Abuse

SACRAMENTO–Legislation by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to help local district attorneys investigate and prosecute elder abuse cases that occur in long-term care facilities was unanimously approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

"Every year hundreds of cases of physical abuse in California nursing homes and assisted living centers, including potential felonies such as assault, rape, and sexual molestation, are reported to state licensing agencies, but not to local law enforcement," said Wolk. "This bill builds on the ombudsman reporting system now in place and makes sure with a simple cross-report that the most serious cases are brought to the immediate attention of local law enforcement, before evidence is lost or destroyed, or witnesses forget key details, making it impossible to prosecute the criminals committing these horrible crimes."

Under existing law, local ombudsmen are assigned to monitor facilities that provide care for elderly and dependent adults. Ombudsmen are required to report known or suspected cases of abuse to one of several state agencies in charge of licensing the facility. However, they are not required to report elder abuse to the local district attorney or law enforcement agency, those best situated to investigate and, when warranted, prosecute the case. Every year, thousands of abuse cases are reported to state agencies, but only a handful ever reach the attention of local prosecutors.

"The California Senior Legislature (CSL) strongly supports Assemblywoman Wolk´s bill," said Shirley Krohn, a senior assemblymember with CSL, the bill´s sponsor. "It sends a message that the frail elderly who must live in a long-term care facility can do so knowing they are safe from the many forms of abuse that plague them today, and that they are respected and treated with dignity."

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It is sad that elder abuse is not reported to law enforcement agencies, it is time that elder abuse be treated as a criminal matter and not a civil matter, there is nothing civil about elder abuse!

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