Many said it was long overdue.
Colorado legislators passed a law
last year that went into effect in July. It greatly expanded the list of professionals and other people who must report any suspicions that a senior citizen is being abused. Apparently, the law is working, as reports have skyrocketed locally.
Sadly, seniors are at risk for a range of abuse from physical to sexual to financial. The new law, similar to protections in other states, seeks to root out perpetrators and keep older citizens safe.
Read on to hear about how the law has impacted our area in it's first month:
Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse: 1st Month Report Card
El Paso County, CO, August 26, 2014 – With the passage of Senate Bill 13-111 since July 1, 2014 in Colorado certain professionals are now required to report abuse, caretaker neglect and exploitation of at risk-elders. An at-risk elder is any person who is 70 years of age or older. If you are a mandatory reporter and you witness or become aware that an at-risk elder has been or is at imminent risk for mistreatment (abuse, caretaker neglect, or exploitation), you must make a report to law enforcement within 24 hours.
Some local agencies are seeing increased reporting of elder abuse since the law went into effect. In July of 2013 Adult Protective Services (APS) at the El Paso County Department of Human Services received a total of 114 reports of abuse or neglect of at-risk adults and in July of this year received a total of 179 reports; an increase of 57%. In 2013, APS had a monthly average of 85.5 reports so far this year they’ve seen a monthly average of 120.4 reports; a 41% increase. The Colorado Springs Police Department has seen referrals received from and sent to APS increase from 80 in January to 150 in July; an 87.5% increase. Silver Key Senior Services saw its largest amount of referrals in July of this year at 29 compared to 21 in January.
The new law requires medical professional, social workers, law enforcement, court appointed guardians and conservators, fire protection personnel, community centered board staff, financial institutions, care facilities, home care placement agencies and clergy to report elder abuse to law enforcement. They must report if they observe abuse or exploitation of an at risk elder; or if there is reasonable cause to believe an at risk elder has been abused or exploited or is at imminent risk of abuse or exploitation. The person needs to report to law enforcement within 24 hours after observation or discovery. Willful failure to report is a class three misdemeanor and can include up to six months in jail and/or a $750 fine.
The SPEAK UP campaign by Adult Protective Services offers some signs an adult is suffering from abuse or neglect.
· Sudden changes in behavior, finances or lifestyle
· Physical injuries, dehydration or malnourishment
· Extreme withdrawal, depression or anxiety
· Absence of basic care of necessities
· Kept away from others
· Unsanitary living conditions
· Personal Items or money missing
For more information on mandatory reporting visit the Pikes Peak Elder Abuse Coalition website at www.StopandPreventElderAbuse.org.