The Georgia Council on Aging was proud to pull together a press conference bringing all the partners who have helped craft the language for the Elder Abuse legislation. Representative Wendell Willard introduced House Bill 72, the Elder Abuse Bill, on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the Capitol. Senator Renee Unterman, GBI Director Vernon Keenan, and Chuck Spahos, Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (www.pacag.org) all spoke about the important components of this legislation that protect Georgia's most vulnerable populations. House Bill 72 builds on House Bill 78 that was passed in 2013 and includes closing some loop holes that prosecutors have identified. You can read the bill in its entirety here.
GCOA 2015 Priorities
Budget Priority: Funding HCBS
Our Budget Priority this year is an ask of $10 Million in FY 2016 for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). This would take 5,000 people off the waiting lists for aging services. Vulnerable seniors need help with meals, bathing, transportation, caregiver relief, home modification, and adult day care. These services can be provided by local businesses and providers through regional Area Agencies on Aging. State funds can be used to leverage community resources. On average these services help seniors remain in their homes for 50 months prior to going to a nursing home. This great consumer choice makes sensible policy. We need to address the needs of the growing Older Georgian population. Georgia has the 10th fastest growing 85 and over population in the U.S.!
Fighting Elder Abuse
Fighting elder abuse is on the minds of many these days. Elder abuse is increasing nationally and in Georgia. From 2008 to 2012 reports of abuse increased by 65%.
Representative Wendell Willard has introduced House Bill 72 for the 2015 legislative session. This bill improves upon House Bill 78 that was passed in 2013, supported by CO-AGE. As prosecutors have tried these cases, they have identified necessary improvements including:
- Allowing prosecutors to charge these crimes as RICO violations to prosecute groups of people who work together to defraud or abuse elderly and vulnerable adults.
- Allowing information collected during departmental inspection or complaint investigation to be used as evidence in a criminal trial.
- Clarifying who has to report suspected financial exploitation
Reposition Division of Aging Services
Moving the Division of Aging Services to the Department of Community Health as an Attached Agency would improve services for Georgia's rapidly expanding aging population. As you can see from the map above, many other southeastern states have already made this crucial step in addressing the needs of seniors on their states. Why should Georgia also make the change?
- Budget management aligned with service delivery
- Streamlined funding for local businesses and community service providers
- Attracting more federal and private sector grants and pilot programs
- Innovative leadership for coordination of services with all other departments
- Careful administration of the State Plan for Alzheimer's
Supporting the Family Care Act
Families provide the vast majority of care for Georgia's older adults. Georgia has about ONE million family caregivers. The Family Care Act would allow workers who currently have sick leave through their employers to use their accrued sick days, up to a maximum of five (5), to care for a parent, spouse or child. An estimated 61% of family caregivers of adults age 50 and older are currently employed. This common sense policy would:
- Strengthen economic security for working people and their families without requiring employers to provide any additional sick days
- Limit the use of emergency rooms as a substitute for regular doctor's visits
- Help delay or prevent institutionalization of older adults which increases the cost of taxpayer funded care.