Every state has agencies that depend, at least to some extent, on federal social services block grants to support investigating allegations, which can range from financial exploitation to physical abuse and neglect.
Advocates say there's only growing attention to the issue, and it deserves more resources, not less.
"It’s this kind of insidious problem we have to think about," said Paul Greenwood, the district attorney in San Diego County, Calif., and leading advocate for elder abuse prevention and prosecution who delivered a keynote speech on the topic recently to the state districts attorney conference in Knoxville.
The House passed a budget resolution that included a requirement to reduce spending, largely a recommendation from the House Budget Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin.
Ultimately, the forced spending reductions — including to the social services block grants — were removed by the Senate. But they could come up again as Congress prepares to debate a tax reform plan from the Trump administration and how to pay for it.
"Elimination of these funds would mean the elimination and/or reduction of many" of the services provided by adult protective agencies, said Julie Schoen, deputy director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, at the Keck School of Medicine in Alhambra, Calif.
"If funding is discontinued or cut, I cannot imagine what will happen."
In Tennessee, nearly half of the state’s nearly $8.6 million budget for Adult Protective Services comes from that federal grant program. In the last five years alone, the state has received 55,000 reports of alleged exploitation, abuse or neglect.
More than 34,000 of those have warranted a state investigation, an average of about 18 per day. That average is consistent with NCEA figures of about 20 per day, Schoen said.
"Elder abuse is on the rise, and awareness of this issue is also growing," she said.
Tennessee Adult Protective Services officials declined to say what moves could be made if funding is reduced, calling it speculative.
State prosecutors and lawmakers in recent years have created task forces and passed legislation to enhance the crimes committed against the state’s elderly, which are handled by 90 APS investigators statewide, less than one per county.
This past year, that effort was championed by state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who has been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Donald Trump.
The legislation was generated in part by a committee established by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014 and led by Norris. That committee focused on vulnerable adults and has developed legislation to increase criminal penalties for elder abuse.
Lisa Zavogiannis, the district attorney in Tennessee's 31st Judicial District, chairs the elder abuse subcommittee within the state's districts attorney conference.
Zavogiannis said the committee has only reached "the tip of the iceberg" on the issue.
Full Article & Source:
Federal funding cuts could be 'devastating blow' to elder abuse prevention