Governor Mills releases plan to address elder abuse in Maine

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Governor Janet Mills released the state’s first plan Friday focused on addressing the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older Mainers.

The Maine Elder Justice Roadmap is the work of a 21-member group of public and private sector experts formed by Mills in 2019 with support from the John T. Gorman Foundation and the Muskie School of Public Service.

The Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership has recommended strategic priorities to better prevent, detect, and respond to abuse that threatens the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of Maine’s older adults.

The recommendations call for additional support services and legal aid for victims, greater public education and professional training to recognize and address abuse, and increased data collection and evaluation of the impacts of public policies.

“The abuse of vulnerable people, especially our eldest citizens, is an insidious crime that has no place in Maine,” Mills said in a written statement. “I look forward to reviewing these recommendations and advancing our efforts to address elder abuse.

One in 10 adults aged 60 and over experience abuse each year – around 40,000 Mainers, according to the National Elder Abuse Study. Often the abuse is committed by someone they trust, including intimate partners, adult children and other family members.

“Tens of thousands of Mainers seniors experience elder abuse each year,” said Jaye Martin, partnership co-chair and executive director of legal services for the elderly at Augusta. “This roadmap identifies actions that can be taken to address this crisis and improve Maine’s response to elder abuse and exploitation.”

As a former district attorney and state attorney general, Mills prosecuted crimes against older Mainers. In 2014, she convened a task force of prosecutors, police, justice officials and lawmakers who produced a report on ways to address financial abuse of older adults.

In 2019, Governor Mills also signed into law LD 566, which requires certain professionals who suspect elder financial abuse to report their concerns to Adult Protective Services and the state Securities Office.

“By working together to implement the changes outlined in this roadmap, public and private sector entities can help reduce the incidence of elder abuse in our state,” said Maine Administrator Judith Shaw. Securities, co-chair of the partnership. “This roadmap identifies clear priorities that response organizations can use in addressing elder abuse.”

A year ago, Mills announced Maine’s plan to fulfill its 2019 designation as an age-friendly state by AARP. Maine was the sixth state to be recognized for its efforts to help older residents live well, and more than 100 Maine communities have been named age-friendly for pursuing similar goals.

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