The Ohio House of Representatives has been working hard to pass legislation that will help some of the most vulnerable populations in our state. One of these pieces of legislation is House Bill 49, which focuses on keeping our seniors safe by combatting the abuse they may face.
Unfortunately, abuse and neglect, to the age 60-plus population, occur daily but often go unreported. In response to this, two of my colleagues introduced HB 49, also known as the Elder Justice Act. This legislation requires the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to create a registry to track elder abuse. This registry will allow for patterns and trends to be found in order to discover ways to prevent future crimes.
Through the Elder Justice Act, ODJFS is required to submit a report outlining a process to implement the registry and document the estimated cost to both the state and county Job and Family Service departments for such a project. HB 49 will also provide a program of ongoing, comprehensive training for protective service caseworkers who are required to report abuse.
In addition to the registry, HB 49 adds to the definition of elder abuse, which currently focuses on physical harm. The definition would be expanded to include abandonment and financial harm. Financial abuse, especially, is a growing problem as technologies continue to develop and criminals become more creative.
The Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission, which was established in 2009, will be made more permanent by adding it to state law. The new commission will increase awareness of elder abuse, work to improve public policy, funding, and programming, and improve the judicial response to elder abuse victims.
As their ranks grow, we must invest in the health and safety of aging Ohioans. The Elder Justice Act’s seeks out ways to prevent future abuses from occurring through studying past crimes and expanding the definition of elder abuse, and strengthening the Elder Abuse Commission. As a proud supporter of this legislation, I am hopeful that this legislation will make pass the Ohio Senate and be approved by the governor, to give our elderly the protections they rightly deserve.
Doug Green is the state representative serving the 66th House District.