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Local lawmakers propose bill package to protect seniors from elder abuse

A package of bills designed to protect senior citizens’ mental health, physical health and finances soon will make its way through the state Legislature.

State reps. Patrick Green (D-Warren), Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park), Diana Farrington (R-Utica) and Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township) introduced the bipartisan package of bills this week to better protect Michigan senior citizens from physical, financial and psychological harm. The package also includes bills to ensure seniors are protected in an assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

“We’ve all heard accounts of seniors losing their life savings or home because they thought they could trust a person, or accounts of seniors being mistreated in care facilities,” said Green, who spearheaded the package. “Unfortunately, dishonest individuals often assume senior citizens are vulnerable just because of their age. We need to do more to ensure those individuals are held accountable for their actions.”

The six-bill package offers legislation in four areas: penalties for abusers of elderly adults, elderly consent, nursing home training requirements and licensure for assisted living facilities. The crimes outlined in the bills carry either misdemeanor or felony penalties.

“Ensuring that our laws protect and provide justice for the victims of these crimes is a priority that we all share,” Farrington said. “Senior citizens are being targeted more frequently, and penalties under the law must reflect the severity of this issue.”

Kesto, who is sponsoring a bill to update the criminal code, added he hopes the specificity of the legislation will “give law enforcement and officers of the court the tools they need to prosecute scam artists and other individuals who prey on our elderly citizens.”

The bills would:

· Prohibit fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain an elderly adult’s money or property and establishes the definition of “consent.” (House Bill 5032-Green)

· Adds misdemeanors and felonies proposed by HB 5032. (House Bill 5029-Guerra)

· Prohibits assaulting an elder adult or vulnerable adult or restraining an elder adult or vulnerable adult by the use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit. (House Bill 5028-Farrington)

· Adds misdemeanors and felonies proposed by HB 5028. (House Bill 5027-Kesto)

· Requires that when nursing home administrators are licensed and relicensed, they are properly trained to be able to identify elder abuse and exploitation and have the resources available to address the issue.(House Bill 5030-Liberati)

· Requires state licensure for assisted living facilities so that they are subject to oversight and meet state standards. (House Bill 5031-Hammoud)

Members of both chambers of the Legislature have been working on legislation to prevent elder abuse for several years. The newly introduced package makes new strides by establishing additional protections for elderly adults in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“We developed this bill package to do better for our seniors, and we believe that updating our laws will offer the protection our elderly citizens deserve,” Hammoud said. “Specifically, my bill would subject assisted living facilities to licensure requirements to improve oversight and increase protections. I have had several constituents approach me regarding unfortunate circumstances at these facilities, and I made a commitment to take action.”

Liberati added: “Individuals who have lived independently their entire life are often left vulnerable in their later years due to social isolation and loneliness. The training requirements in my legislation will help bring this problem to light and help caregivers recognize and combat abuse and exploitation.”

Michigan’s senior population, ages 65 and older, continues to grow with slightly more than 1.57 million as of July 2015, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. Census bureau estimates that the senior population increased slightly by July 2016 to 16.2 percent or 1.58 million, of Michigan’s total population.

Vulnerable seniors risk of death increases 300 percent when compared to those who have not been mistreated or neglected, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health. Because of the growing population and its vulnerability, the legislators said Michigan needs to increase protections for seniors now so that law enforcement officials are not stymied when they try and prosecute crimes against seniors.

“This legislation provides a real chance for my colleagues and me to make a positive impact on a serious issue facing one of our state’s most vulnerable populations,” Guerra said. “I’m hopeful my fellow Michiganders and legislators will get involved and support these bills as they move through the legislative process in the coming months.”

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