Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. It is a pleasure to join you all again on behalf of the Attorney General for today’s Elder Justice Coordinating Council meeting. Before starting my brief remarks, I wanted to thank Edwin and his team for organizing not just today’s meeting, but the many previous meetings as well. Planning and organizing these meetings consumes a tremendous amount of time and effort, so I wanted to express the department’s gratitude to Administration for Community Living (ACL) for taking the laboring oar the past several years so that the council could focus on the important work at hand. I also want to acknowledge some of the many folks from the Department of Justice who have dedicated so much of their time and talent to moving our Elder Justice Initiative forward and who I know many of you know and work with every day in our terrific cooperative efforts – Andy Mao, Susan Lynch, Richard Goldberg, who you will hear from later on, as well as Julie Childs, Maria Shumar, Shelly Jackson, Jamie Davis and Sid Stahl.
Amazingly, it’s been almost four years since then Secretary Sibelius and Attorney General Eric H. Holder convened the inaugural meeting of this council. At that meeting, Secretary Sibelius spoke of how every American deserved the chance to live their later years with basic comfort and financial security. Attorney General Holder, in turn, emphasized the critical need for greater collaboration and communication to advance our collective efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
I am very happy to say that since that meeting, there has been a significant increase in the level of coordination and collaboration among the federal agencies, as will be highlighted later this morning. Just as importantly, this council has taken a number of major steps on the eight recommendations we adopted to both improve our response to, awareness of, and prevention of elder abuse and financial exploitation. I would like to highlight some of the steps the Department of Justice has taken.
In response to the recommendation “to support the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases,” the department launched 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces in March of this year. These task forces will bring together federal, state and local stakeholders to focus on those nursing homes that are providing grossly substandard care to their residents as well to combat elder financial exploitation. Moreover, to support state and local prosecutors, the department has developed a video series on elder abuse prosecutions that is now available on the Elder Justice website as well as YouTube. Working with national experts, this series provides critical information to prosecutors regarding every stage of a prosecution, from triaging and investigating allegations, to working with experts and other partners, to trial considerations.
Supporting elder abuse research is another place where the department has made progress. In response to the council’s recommendation to develop an elder justice research agenda, the department funded the survey of 26 elder abuse research leaders nationwide to prioritize the most critical knowledge gaps in the elder abuse field. Unsurprisingly, the survey prioritized the need for greater research on effective strategies to prevent elder abuse and financial exploitation.
Given that, the department’s National Institute of Justice put out a solicitation in February 2016 for the initial planning phase for the development of an effective intervention that can be used to prevent elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of at risk seniors living in the community setting. This solicitation builds, in part, on previous efforts, like the Administration on Aging’s Elder Abuse Prevention intervention demonstration projects. I’m excited to say that there were many terrific proposals submitted and that the department recently made two grants under this solicitation to the University of Southern California and the Urban Institute. While this is only the first phase of a multi-year process, we believe both projects have great promise and hope they will materially advance our elder abuse prevention efforts.
The department is also actively enhancing the capacity of frontline responders to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by supporting the development of training and other resources. The department has initiated projects to support the development of training for law enforcement and prosecutors, for civil legal aid attorneys to guardians and conservators and for victim specialists to multidisciplinary teams. Likewise, the department is simultaneously supporting the development of tools for these responders, such as an elder abuse app for law enforcement to use on their smart phones and a documentation protocol for healthcare providers to properly document potential incidents of elder abuse. Again, we expect all of these projects to significantly bolster our collective ability to respond to elder abuse.
Lastly, I wanted to mention the department’s Elder Justice Website as it cuts across many of the recommendations set forth by this council. The website, which can now be found at www.elderjustice.gov, was recently relaunched and contains even more information for victims and their families, prosecutors, law enforcement, victim specialists and others.
While there are many new facets to the website, there is one that I wanted to highlight in particular, which is the Elder Abuse Resource Roadmap that is easily accessible through the Financial Exploitation section of the Elder Justice website. This easy to use program can help direct users to available federal resources and information, or, to the appropriate federal agency where the user can report an incident of an elder financial scam or fraud. The Resource Roadmap can, for example, direct users regarding a wide array of scams such as identity theft, consumer fraud and Internal Revenue Service tax or impersonation scams. Finally, while the Resource Roadmap currently focuses on elder financial exploitation, we have already begun to consider how to build this out to other forms of elder abuse as well. So be on the lookout for that.
In closing, the Department of Justice has been honored to work with our colleagues across the federal government to advance our collective efforts to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation. And, while we are pleased by the steps taken, there remains much to do and we look forward to our continued collaboration for years to come. Thank you.