Friday, January 5, 2018

County Attorney’s Office works to protect vulnerable adults

The Albany County Attorney’s office is trying to get ahead of the curve of a new state statute that was made effective Jan. 1, aimed to protect residents from elder abuse, or vulnerable adult abuse.

Albany County prosecuting attorney Peggy Trent said Gov. Matt Mead assembled a taskforce to look into preventing elder abuse in the state. The findings from the taskforce were used to revise the Uniform Power of Attorneys Act to protect residents against elder abuse, she said.

“Gov. Mead set up a taskforce some time in 2016, and it is my understanding that this taskforce was looking at how we can better address the issues our elderly are facing,” she said.

“As a result of that, the taskforce came together and proposed some revisions to our current Wyoming statutes that they felt would better guide and assist law enforcement and the public to assist elderly people in our community.”

Trent and Albany County Sheriff Dave O’Malley attended a training in 2017 to help identify and prosecute instances of elder abuse using information gathered by the taskforce, she said. After the training, Trent said she thought of ways the county could prepare for preventing of these types of abuses, and enforcing laws aimed at protecting vulnerable adults.

“I was watching what the state report was saying, and we want to be ahead of the curve,” Trent said. “After training on (elder abuse) and learning of the committee, it was my intent that maybe we need to look in Albany County if this is an issue and how we would go about addressing it.”

There were few cases of elder abuse in the past few years, but she predicted the problem is more common than reports suggest, she said. Because of the lack of elder abuse reports, the attorney’s office is putting together a vulnerable adult initiative to help individuals who might not be reporting abuse, Trent said.

“I have seen maybe two or three cases (of elder abuse), statistically we know there is more exploitation of vulnerable adults out there in our community but it is not getting reported,” she said. “I don’t know if people completely recognize it at times, so this is an initiative that I wanted to start addressing to see what needs to be addressed.”

Information provided by the National Council on Aging states about one in 10 Americans — over the age of 60 — have experienced some form of abuse, of those only one in 14 cases are reported to authorities. About 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents are committed by a family member, the council information states.

Albany County’s initiative would encourage residents to make a report if they or someone they know is experiencing the abuse, while providing law enforcement with the tools to better identify different signs of abuse, Trent said.

“We discussed getting the same mechanisms in place that we have for child protection services,” she said. “All of the service providers come together (and discuss) how they can help vulnerable adults in our community and provide service to avoid them becoming part of our system.”

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County Attorney’s Office works to protect vulnerable adults

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