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5/17/2018 Senate OKs elder abuse and financial exploitation task force
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne to create a special legislative task force to study abuse and financial exploitation of elderly Rhode Islanders.

The bill (2018-S 2868), which will now advance to the House of Representatives, would create a nine-member Elder Abuse and Exploitation Task Force to study the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and exploitation in the state.

"Our senior citizens, particularly those who are no longer able to advocate for themselves, deserve safety and protection. Unfortunately, having to trust someone else to assist with health needs or everyday tasks leaves some elderly people vulnerable to abuse or fraud at the hands of their caregivers. Especially as the baby boom generation ages and our senior population expands, our state should take a look at the scope of this issue and whether our laws could do more to prevent it,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

The legislation would establish a special joint task force consisting of one member of the House and one member of the Senate, who together would serve as co-chairpersons; the lieutenant governor or his designee; one member of the public with significant experience in elder law; one representative from an agency that works directly with victims of elder abuse and/or financial exploitation; one  member of law enforcement; one person with significant experience working issues related to elder abuse and/or financial exploitation appointed by the Attorney General; the director of the Division of Elderly Affairs or his or her designee; and the state director of the AARP-RI or her designee.  

The purpose of the task force would be to study the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and exploitation in Rhode Island and to make recommendations on policies and legislation to effectively address the issue impacting seniors and other vulnerable adults.

This legislation was suggested by AARP Rhode Island, whose members identified it as a top issue for them. Older Americans, who make up 12 percent of the population, are disproportionately affected by financial fraud, constituting 30 percent of consumer fraud victims. Elder abuse, like many forms of domestic abuse, is often hidden and is significantly underreported. Financial abuse of seniors goes beyond money, also frequently affecting physical and emotional health.

Under the bill, the members would need to be appointed by Aug. 1, with findings reported to the General Assembly by Feb. 1. The task force would expire on June 30, 2019.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton), Sen. Jeanine Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). Companion legislation (2018-H 8031) was introduced in the House by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923