State News
June 20, 2018

New initiative protects elders

Attorney General T.J. Donovan has announced the launch of a permanent unit within his office known as the Elder Protection Initiative. This unit will focus on supporting and protecting Vermont’s aging population. The unit is the result of a listening tour that solicited ideas from stakeholders on how best to assist older Vermonters.

The announcement of the Elder Protection Initiative comes on the heels of a recently concluded listening tour by the Attorney General. The tour spanned all of Vermont’s 14 counties and covered the issue of older Vermonters’ greatest needs, concerns, and vulnerabilities. During the listening tour, the Attorney General’s staff visited senior centers, senior meal sites and senior housing units and met with approximately 230 representatives of 65 different organizations that serve older Vermonters, including the Area Agencies on Aging, SASH, Meals on Wheels, home health agencies, hospitals, the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association, the Vermont Center For Aging, AARP, and Legal Aid, among others.

Donovan said about the listening tour: “One of the common concerns we heard was that older Vermonters and caretakers don’t know where to go to learn about what programs and services are available. Vermont 2-1-1 can help.”

In the immediate future, this unit will collaborate with Vermont 2-1-1 and Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont on elder-related projects.

EPI’s collaboration with agencies and stakeholders will work to identify common vulnerabilities facing older Vermonters and address these systemic concerns, whether by enforcement efforts, public education, or advocating for legislation.

“It’s my job to help ensure that older Vermonters are safe and secure,” said Donovan. “We do that every day throughout my office: prosecuting physical abuse, financial exploitation and Medicaid fraud, alerting the public to stop frauds, and supporting our human services programs.”

By 2030, 40 percent of Vermonters will be 55 or older.

“We are moving into an era where it is more essential than ever that we Vermonters collaborate to support the wellbeing of our older community members,” Donovan remarked. “We are moving into this new era by launching the Elder Protection Initiative.”

General Donovan also announced EPI’s initial projects. EPI will work with Vermont 2-1-1 to enhance 2-1-1’s referral capacity regarding elder exploitation and abuse. EPI will also collaborate with the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont (COASEV).

Vermont 2-1-1 is a program of the United Ways of Vermont. It maintains a statewide information and referral program and a searchable online database of thousands of programs, services, and resources available to Vermonters in their towns or regions, including transportation, food, and housing.

Through the EPI, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is also collaborating with COASEV, which received a grant from the United States Department of Justice to support the development of a multidisciplinary team in Windham County to combat elder abuse. The team consists of local law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service organizations, and others. The DOJ will train team members over a three-year period on how to collaboratively address elder abuse in their region.

A summary of the AGO’s listening tour findings is available at ago.vermont.gov/epi/listening-tour/.

The Attorney General’s announcement was made on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

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