News & Travel

Arizona Reduces Responsibility of Facilities for Abuse of Vulnerable Adults While Abuse Rates Rise

Just days before President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing the Seventh Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, our state officials were releasing the details of an examination of Arizona’s experience regarding elder abuse. Their findings were described as “stunning and disturbing.” While there is no clear cause identified by the statistics, police say vulnerable adult deaths are 10 times what they were last year.  Investigators have urged families and loved ones of vulnerable adults to remain alert of the care they receive and to immediately report any activity they find suspicious.  To combat the rising concerns over this epidemic, a new federal law is developing that would require that any allegation lead to investigation.  “Everyone from the owner of the business to the janitor is a mandatory reporter if they see and hear of abuse. They have to report it to the health department within the hour,” stated Phoenix police Det. Toni Brown.

Governor Brewer recently signed into law a bill to strike the attorney fees provision from the abuse and neglect statute. The prior statute allowed attorneys to bring claims for abused and neglected seniors and force the facility to pay the attorney fees incurred because of the abuse and neglect rather than the injured or dead vulnerable adult. Elimination of the attorney fee provision was nothing more than a way to reduce damages awarded by a jury and keep facilities from having to pay their full responsibility. It is unfortunately part of an Arizona trend to undermine the protections of the elderly and vulnerable who have previously been protected by some of the strongest laws in the country. Abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults is not, and should not be, subject to politics—it should be a priority for a just society. When seniors and the disabled are at their most vulnerable, they should receive our highest protection.

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