TRENTON – In an effort to reduce incidents of abuse among vulnerable residents, Senator Fred H. Madden Jr. and Senator Joseph F. Vitale recently introduced legislation that would establish a task force aimed at protecting senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.
“Elderly residents and people with disabilities must be protected from those who may take advantage of them or their situation,” said Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Abuse can come in many forms – whether it be physically, mentally or financially.”
“These residents deserve the proper environment and care necessary to lead healthy lives. Preventing future incidents of abuse will help to ensure that they continue to do so ,” said Madden.
The bill, S-3128, would create the New Jersey Task Force on Abuse Against the Elderly and Disabled.
According to the legislation, the task force would evaluate current policies designed to protect older adults and individuals with disabilities.
It would also identify existing circumstances of abuse, and develop recommendations for legislation, policies, and strategies that would help to protect senior citizens and disabled individuals from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
“For many individuals who cannot fend for themselves, abuse can take a toll on their physical and mental health,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is why it is crucial that we create a measure that will address this issue.”
“By establishing a task force that will help to examine policies and solutions to protect our most vulnerable residents, we will reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect in our communities ,” said Vitale.
The task force would further consist of 11 members representing the elderly and disabled community including agency officials, advocacy groups, and public members of the Legislature.
Three of the public members would be appointed by the Governor while the Senate President and the Speaker of the Assembly would each appoint one public member.
After 12 months, the task force would be required to submit a report of its findings with recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”
Similarly, abuse of the disabled also occurs commonly by caretakers, family members and other service providers.
In addition, financial exploitation of the elderly often includes consumer fraud such as prize scams and donations, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reported that it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.
Currently, there are 40.3 million elderly residents in the United States over the age of 65 and approximately 14 million adults aged 65 and over and 19 million adults aged 18 to 64 who have a disability.
According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, senior citizens age 65 and older made up about 13.5 percent of New Jersey’s total population.
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