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The number of older Americans is fast growing, and so is the problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. This often invisible treatment is among the gravest issues facing millions of American families. The Elder Justice Act would provide federal resources to support State and community efforts on the front lines dedicated to fighting elder abuse with scarce resources and fragmented systems. From a social perspective, elder justice means assuring adequate public-private infrastructure and resources to prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. From an individual perspective, elder justice is the right of every older person to be free of abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Elder Justice Act would promote both aspects of elder justice with the following provisions:
- Elevate elder justice issues to a national attention. Creation of (1) Offices of Elder Justice at the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice to serve programmatic, grant-making, policy and technical assistance functions relating to elder justice, (2) a public-private and a Coordinating Council to coordinate activities of all relevant federal agencies, States, communities and private and not-for-profit entities, and (3) a consistent funding stream and national coordination for Adult Protective Services (APS).
- Improving the quality, quantity and accessibility of information. An Elder Justice Resource Center and Library will provide information for consumers, advocates, researchers, policy makers, providers, clinicians, regulators and law enforcement and prevent "re-inventing" the wheel. A national data repository also will be developed to increase the knowledge base and collect data about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- Increasing knowledge and supporting promising projects. Given the paucity of research, Centers of Excellence will enhance research, clinical practice, training and dissemination of information relating to elder justice. Priorities include a national incidence and prevalence study, jump-starting intervention research, developing community strategies to make elders safer, and enhancing multi-disciplinary efforts.
- Developing forensic capacity. There is scant data to assist in the detection of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Creating new forensic expertise (similar to that in child abuse) will promote detection and increase expertise. New programs will train health professionals in both forensic pathology and geriatrics.
- Victim assistance, "safe havens," and support for at-risk elders. Elder victims' needs, which are rarely addressed, will be better met by supporting creation of "safe havens" for seniors who are not safe where they live and development of programs focusing on the special needs of at-risk elders and older victims.
- Increasing prosecution. Technical, investigative, coordination, and victim assistance resources will be provided to law enforcement to support elder justice cases. Preventive efforts will be enhanced by supporting community policing efforts to protect at-risk elders.
- Training. Training to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is supported both within individual disciplines and in multi-disciplinary (such as public health-social service-law enforcement) settings.
- Special programs to support underserved populations including rural, minority and Indian seniors.
- Model State Laws and Practices. A study will review state practices and laws relating to elder justice.
- Increasing Security, Collaboration, and Consumer Information in Long-Term Care.
- Improving prompt reporting of crimes in long-term care settings
- Criminal background checks for long-term care workers
- Enhancing long-term care staffing
- Information about long-term care for consumers through a Long-Term Care Consumer Clearinghouse
- Promoting accountability through a new federal law to prosecute abuse and neglect in nursing homes
- Evaluations and accountability. Provisions to determine "what works" and assure funds are properly spent.