MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin's Attorney General has announced a new program to tackle elder abuse in the state.
The Attorney General's Task Force on Elder Abuse's mission is to study the impact of elder abuse and find ways to protect a growing population of citizens
Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.
“Over the next two decades, Wisconsin’s 65 and older population will increase by 72% and one in nine seniors have reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past twelve months,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel. “Sadly, this group is seen by criminals as vulnerable and easily exploitable. With this rapidly growing population, we must act with urgency to protect our loved ones from becoming the target of financial, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.”
The Attorney General's office says elder abuse is "vastly underreported."
In Brown County, one of the leading forms of abuse is financial.
"The amounts of money can be significant," said Ian Agar, outpatient behavioral health manager at Brown County Community Treatment Center. "Someone's life savings can be squandered away quite quickly, either through fraud or a scam."
Agar said the hardest part is getting the money back and catching those responsible for the fraud, so he's hoping the state's new Task Force on Elder Abuse will help.
"What I would hope for from the task force would be additional resources and tools to help investigate," said Agar. "With successful prosecution, we can reduce the number of reports and incidents of abuse."
Schimel said that is just one of many goals.
"The task force will also work to strengthen consumer protection laws for seniors and create recommendations for improved cross-system communication," said Schimel.
Devon Christianson, director of Brown County's Aging and Disability Resource Center, said better communication is key. The Task Force will be made up of a number of groups, including the Department of Justice and local law enforcement.
"To have this multi-disciplinary team at the state level to really attack the problem through all of these disciplines is really what is going to make the difference," said Christianson. "Instead of it being a small local initiative, the state push is going to give the wind beneath all of our wings to try and make a difference."
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Wisconsin DOJ creates elder abuse task force