Governor takes on Fraud and Abuse against Oregon’s Seniors

Governor Ted Kulongoski working with the Legislature and Senior activists recently strengthened protections for older Oregonians against fraud and abuse. The Governor signed Senate Bill 106 which makes it much easier for the elderly to get protection from abuse and fraud. The Governor signed the Bill at Hollywood Senior Center and was joined by an abuse survivor who shared their personal story and highlighted the importance of this bill.

“It goes without saying that abuse of an elderly person, or a person with a disability, is unacceptable,” Governor Ted Kulongoski said. “Unfortunately, several thousand older citizens and people with disabilities in Oregon experience abuse and neglect each year and as the baby boomer generation ages, this problem is expected to worsen.”

As part of the Governor’s comprehensive public safety review, Governor Kulongoski created an Elder Abuse Task Force in February 2004 to study the issue of elder abuse in Oregon and develop a list of recommended actions to strengthen protection for Oregon’s older citizens. One of the main recommendations included a series of statutory changes to provide additional protection for vulnerable adults who have been victims of financial exploitation, theft, physical and sexual abuse – which resulted in the development of SB 106.

“I have worked for more than a decade to better protect Oregon’s seniors against abuse and neglect – and protecting Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens remains a priority for my administration,” the Governor said. “This legislation will expand the rights of older Oregonians – and the role we each have in ensuring all of our fellow citizens are both physically and financially secure in their homes and our communities.”

In Oregon, 2004 data shows that there were more than 8500 reports of abuse and neglect of seniors and people with disabilities to the Department of Human Services. More than 2,300 of the reports alleged financial abuse – not including those from facilities or institutions – representing more than 26 percent of total reports.

The Elderly and Disabled Person Abuse Prevention Act was originally passed in 1995 and this session, Senate Bill 106 further expanded protections for seniors and people with disabilities by:

· Expanding the definition of “abuse” in the Elderly and Disabled Person Abuse Prevention Act to include financial and sexual abuse. As a result, seniors or persons with disabilities who can demonstrate that they have been the victim of abuse and that the threat of additional abuse exists now can seek a restraining order against the wrongful taking or appropriating of money or property, threatening to wrongfully take or appropriate money or property, and nonconsensual sexual conduct. (Until now, the type of abuse for which a restraining order could be sought was limited to physical abuse, neglect that leads to physical harm, abandonment, or exploitation via sweepstakes promotion.);

· Increasing the list of private and public officials mandated to report elder abuse to include firefighters and emergency medical technicians – responders who frequently come in contact with seniors;

· Providing immunity to all individuals – not just mandatory reporters – who report elder abuse in good faith; and

· Requiring state agencies to notify long-term care facilities or residential care facilities when an offender who is on parole, probation, or post-prison supervision for a sex offense is seeking admission, allowing them to refuse admission. The bill permits those facilities to discharge or transfer registered sex offenders who are on parole, probation, or post-prison supervision for a sex crime if that individual presents a risk of harm to another person within the facility.

“Too many cases of abuse go unreported each year,” Governor Kulongoski said. “I ask all Oregonians to join me in making this issue a priority and to report any suspected cases of abuse to your local DHS office or Area Agency on Aging Office,” said Governor Kulongoski.

The Oregon Department of Human Services toll-free number to report suspected cases of abuse is: 1-800-232-3020.

Posted on December 1, 2005
Front Page News, Public Safety