Connecticut Attorney General William Tong was joined by several state officials last week as he officially opened a “one-stop shop” for older adults in Connecticut in need of information, help and justice: The Connecticut Elder Justice Hotline.
Elderly justice issues can range from age-related discrimination in the workplace to fraud and defraud, abuse, neglect and exploitation. As a result, no single government agency can answer every question. The Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Unit will man the hotline and refer matters to the appropriate state government agencies.
AG Tong, Commissioner for Aging and Disability Amy Porter, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Michelle H. Seagull, and the Connecticut Coalition for Elder Justice have launched the hotline at 860-808-5555. Individuals can also access information about the hotline, resources and a complaints portal at portal.ct.gov/ag/elderhotline.
“If you have been fraudulent, neglected, exploited or abused, we are here to help. It is sometimes difficult to know who to call so we want to make it easy. The Elder Justice Hotline can answer your questions, connect you with trained investigators, and help you access help, support and justice, ”said AG Tong on July 19 during the official unveiling.
Porter said she and others believed the hotline “will make older adults and their families much easier to forge connections that will support their independence with dignity and respect”.
Reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation received via the hotline are forwarded to the elderly protection service of the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS social workers investigate reports of elder abuse and neglect, including self-neglect, and intervene with services and links with community partners.
The Newtown Municipal Agent and at least one policeman from the Newtown Police Department are happy about the new resource.
Natalie Jackson and Maryhelen McCarthy both spoke to The Newtown Bee on the Elder Justice Hotline. Both expressed the hope that the new instrument of the state will provide another way in which seniors can find support and, if necessary, protection and / or help.
As the Newtown community representative, one of Jackson’s roles is to ensure that the elderly in the city have an officially appointed representative who is responsible for providing them with information and assistance regarding services and benefits.
Jackson also serves as the Director of Human Services, which includes the Newtown Senior Center under that division.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says elderly abuse can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, willful deprivation, and abandonment. The perpetrators include children, other family members and spouses, as well as employees of nursing homes, assisted living and other facilities.
Unfortunately, the subject is known to both women.
“We see abuse of the elderly happen in many ways, from cheating, seniors unable to meet their needs, and becoming victims of self-neglect, emotional abuse, and control of their actions or finances Physical abuse incidents, “Jackson said on July 27th.
“Seniors can be very intimidated and embarrassed to seek help in situations like this,” she continued. “Although we see cases of elder abuse, I fear there are cases that we are unaware of. I hope that by setting up the hotline and receiving information like this article from The Newtown Bee, we can continue to empower seniors in these vulnerable situations. “
Newtown Police Officer McCarthy, who in addition to his work as a patrol officer also serves as the liaison between the police, the senior center and the Center for Support and Wellness, said one in ten senior citizens is a victim of violence against the elderly.
“We’re getting our share of cases and it’s tough,” she said.
Just a few years ago, Newtown PD was sentenced to a conviction, in large part due to McCarthy’s investigative work into a criminal case into the abuse of an elderly male relative by a woman in charge of caring for the man .
“We had a lot of officers working on this case and we were overwhelmed by this incident,” said McCarthy.
Shannon Marie Simko was charged with willful cruelty to persons, a crime, in April 2018; and reckless second degree endangerment. She was sentenced to two years probation and two years in prison, which was suspended after serving four days, according to a state court report.
“That was pretty serious,” McCarthy recalled. “We had so many agencies working – protection services, social services, all working together for this common purpose, and that is how the arrest came about. This case has been talked about across the state when we go to training. “
For her work on this and other cases, McCarthy was honored by the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut in October 2018.
McCarthy continues to focus on some of the more vulnerable residents. For example, she does not want another person to be the victim of financial exploitation.
“You have nearly 5 million people every year,” to whom this happens, she said last week.
In February, the National Council on Aging released a report that confirmed these statistics and estimated the annual loss of victims of financial abuse to be at least $ 36.5 billion.
McCarthy understood, she said, the reluctance of people of all ages to contact the police.
“I encourage people to call the police, but there are many seniors who are ashamed or fearful of dire retribution,” she said on July 23. I would encourage people to use this hotline. “
Jackson agreed with the idea that more people could be happier contacting people outside of law enforcement.
Jackson called it “an incredibly important new resource for seniors,” and said she hoped the Elder Justice Hotline “will help streamline access to support and provide a non-threatening and easy pathway for seniors who may be victims of assistance become.
“While we hope that a senior experiencing any form of abuse, neglect or exploitation can contact our police or human resources directly, I assume that this hotline is another avenue that the person can ultimately get into our local system brings where we can then offer our local support, however best suited to contribute to a solution and equity. “
Local support includes programs and resources available through the Center for Support and Wellness, 28 Trades Lane.
McCarthy often directs people to the spa, she said.
“It’s important that people know that CSW isn’t sharing their information with us,” she said. While some things are mandated to be reported to law enforcement agencies, most of the information discussed within the walls of CSW remains confidential.
“You’re in charge of reporting some things, just like we are,” said McCarthy.
“But there are many things we don’t care about, like the fact that you don’t like your daughter,” the officer continued. “Our concern at the moment is the senior. That is our main concern. What they share with the wellness center stays with them. “
CSW can provide recommendations for driving to appointments, assistance with taxes, fuel assistance, accommodation, legal assistance, and more.
“They have all of this stuff available and they are good people,” McCarthy said. “They are responsible people and they are private individuals.”
Jackson’s office is also working with Newtown’s Commission on Aging, she said, to “look for large-scale ways to interact with and stand up for the older population in the city.”
An important tool
DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull called the new hotline “another vital tool in the toolkit for governments to work together to protect consumers from age-related workplace discrimination, older adult fraud, elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation. ”
Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, Department of Social Services Commissioner and Acting Commissioner for the Department of Health, said: “Unfortunately, older adults are particularly vulnerable to severe abuse, including physical, emotional and even sexual abuse, along with neglect and financial abuse.
“Our protection services social workers help adults 60 and older by investigating allegations and offering or arranging services to alleviate and prevent further abuse,” added Gifford. “We also provide personal and estate care services when at-risk older adults have no one to look after them or their interests.”
James Rovella, Commissioner, Emergency Services and Public Protection, commented, “This hotline will help law enforcement, family and friends protect our most vulnerable and vulnerable populations. Our older populations sometimes struggle and fear when trying to report that they are a victim. That will be an enormous help. “
The Connecticut Attorney General and Coalition for Elder Justice have partnered with the following state agencies and organizations to support the hotline: Department of Banking, Department of Consumer Protection, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Public Health, Department for Social Services / Elderly Protection Services, Long Term Care Ombudsman, Police Training Academy, Emergency Services and Public Protection Department, and the State Aging Department / Seniors and Disability Services Department.
Since the state hotline is still in its infancy, McCarthy is also asking people to let the state and / or local level know if they have any experience with the new offering.
“We need to know if that works and not,” she remarked. “If people have problems with the hotline or get in touch and can’t find what they want, they have to let us know.
“With that I see great things possible. I hope it is very successful. “
Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at [email protected].
Newtown Director of Human Services Natalie Jackson and Newtown Police Officer MaryHelen McCarthy will be in front of the Center for Support and Wellness on Monday, July 25, one week after the Connecticut Elder Justice Hotline officially launched. —Bee photo, Hicks
—Connecticut Office of the Attorney General Illustration