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AG Kilmartin Files Legislation Requiring Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

Kilmartin to Also File Legislation to Extend Statute of Limitations on Elder Financial Exploitation

Citing the alarming statistics of unreported elder abuse in this country, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced his intention to file two pieces of legislation to protect seniors from physical and financial abuse. According to a report by the National Council on Aging, for every one case of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, at least five more go unreported.

To combat this epidemic of underreporting of elder abuse, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin filed legislation today to require health care providers to release health care information to appropriate law enforcement personnel if they believe the elder patient is or has been physically, psychologically or sexually abused or neglected.

The legislation, which passed the Senate last year, was filed today by sponsors Representative Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Senator Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich).

"Due to the nature of elder abuse crimes, time is of the essence," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "The victims in these cases are often vulnerable and face a myriad of health challenges, thus making a timely investigation more critical to ensure the victim's availability to participate in the investigation. Moreover, the perpetrator of elder abuse is most often known to the victim, making it less likely for the victim to report. We need to have laws in place to ensure the safety and well being for our most vulnerable citizens."

"I am concerned that a large segment of society, our elderly population, is vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. They often don't know where to turn to seek help and are often fearful of reporting abuse. This bill will permit our health care providers to report suspected abuse, much like when children are the suspected victims of abuse, so that the proper authorities can investigate and protect those elderly citizens who might not have the ability to protect themselves," said Representative Coderre.

Senator Cool Rumsey added, "Health care providers, in some cases, are the only means by which some elderly abuse cases may ever be discovered. Unfortunately, it's not just that providers aren't required to report abuse; they are actually barred by medical privacy laws from doing so. We need this common-sense exception to let them help stop abuse when they discover it."

In addition, Kilmartin also announced his intent to file legislation extending the statute of limitations for elder exploitation from three years to ten years. Recognizing the complexities of financial crimes and the challenges of protecting with a population that may have physical and mental limitations, extending the statute of limitations of elder exploitation would allow law enforcement the necessary time to build a proper case for charging and subsequent prosecution, bringing it in line with other financial crimes.

According to the National Council on Aging, elder financial abuse is regarded as the third most commonly substantiated type of elder abuse. Also underreported, it is estimated the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse exceeded $2.6 billion annually nationwide.

"Many elders rely on others they think they can trust to handle their financial affairs, only to be robbed of their hard earned money. In some cases, the perpetrator leaves the victim penniless. Financial exploitation of elders is one of the most challenging to investigate charge and prosecute. By the time law enforcement becomes aware of the situation and investigates the matter, the statute of limitations has often expired. We need to treat financial exploitation of elders like to do all other financial crimes," said Attorney General Kilmartin.

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