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Elder abuse task force discusses potential reforms in Wisconsin

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Attorney General Brad Schimel today held the fourth meeting of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse, as reports of such abuse continues to rise in Wisconsin.

According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), from 2001 to 2017, reported allegations of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and requests for information about elder abuse increased 160% in Wisconsin.

At the task force meeting on Thursday, August 2, task force members discussed financial exploitation, reforms to address elder abuse in other states, and needed criminal law changes, and the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services on elder abuse in Wisconsin.

In June 2018, DHS released the 2017 elder abuse and neglect report. From 2016 to 2017, total reported allegations of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation in Wisconsin increased by 4.8%. In the same time period, alleged financial exploitation alone increased 17.5%. And from 2001 to 2017, reported allegations of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and requests for information about elder abuse increased 160% in Wisconsin.

“Caring for the state’s older residents has always been a priority at the Department of Health Services,” said DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer. “We look forward to working with the task force to ensure Wisconsin is a place where everyone is safe and can live their best life.”

The Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse, launched in March 2017, is made up of representatives from Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, the Wisconsin State Legislature, law enforcement, Wisconsin Court System, Board on Aging and Long Term Care, Wisconsin Bankers Association, crime victim services, adult protective services, senior living facilities, and senior citizen advocacy organizations.

The task force is charged with compiling the resources and knowledge of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to study the impact of elder abuse in Wisconsin and assess ways to improve outcomes for this growing population of citizens. In addition to developing strategies to address barriers in investigations and prosecutions of elder abuse, the task force will strengthen consumer protection for seniors and create recommendations for improved cross-system communications.

The state DOJ has been working with law enforcement and aging and senior care experts and advocates to raise awareness about elder abuse and encourage citizens to report abuse against seniors. The public awareness campaign, first launched in January 2018 with radio ads, encourages citizens to report suspected elder abuse of any kind, teaches how to recognize elder abuse, and connects victims with resources. In May 2018, Attorney General Schimel launched a new website, www.ReportElderAbuseWI.org, and paid online outreach aimed at elder abuse victims.

The state has also launched the “Safe Seniors Camera Program,” a new pilot project in Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties that allows Wisconsin residents, who suspect a caregiver is abusing their loved one, to use a covert camera to provide surveillance over someone who may have been harmed by a caregiver in their residence.

To report suspected financial, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, please contact your county elder adult-at-risk agency or call 1-800-488-3780. If you witness an act of abuse, neglect, or exploitation that requires immediate attention, please call 911.

To learn more about elder abuse, go to www.ReportElderAbuseWI.org.

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