Citing the difficulty in prosecuting elder abuse, state and local officials are proposing reforms that will streamline the reporting of cases and make it easier to obtain convictions.
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, recently introduced AB 40, which would require mandated reporters to inform both an ombudsman and local law enforcement when they suspect abuse. Currently, mandated reporters – which include employees at nursing homes and social, health, and law enforcement workers – are only required to report cases to one of the two agencies.
Another bill, SB 558, introduced in February by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would change the burden of proof in elder abuse cases, which are often prosecuted as civil cases, not criminal ones. The bill lowers the burden of proof from "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of evidence."
The elder abuse issue gained momentum last month, when law enforcement, state agencies, elder advocates and nursing home operators testified at an assembly hearing in Sacramento. Led by Yamada and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, the hearing was meant to shed light on California's shortcomings in dealing with elder abuse and make the case for bills such as AB 40.
Of the more than 1,400 elder abuse complaints that the state ombudsman office received last year, only 56 cases were reported to the state attorney general's office, said Mark Zahner of the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
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Lawmakers Push for Elder Abuse Reforms