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Governor Mills: Elder abuse has no home in Maine.

The abuse of vulnerable Maine people, especially older citizens, is an insidious problem. Every year, more than 33,000 Maine people over the age of sixty are reportedly abused or exploited. Every year, between $10.5 million and $64 million in savings and assets are stolen from older Maine people through financial exploitation. Far too often, older citizens are alone and isolated, and they depend on only one or two people, sometimes family members, for their well-being and they are hesitant to ask for help. 

Elder abuse has no home in Maine. Eradicating abuse requires state government, law enforcement, aging organizations and financial professionals to work together to protect our seniors.

When I was District Attorney and later as Attorney General, I prosecuted many crimes against older Maine people and, in 2014, I convened a Task Force to combat financial exploitation of seniors. We made changes to judicial case management, to staffing, and to specialized training for law enforcement to ferret out abuse and investigate it in a streamlined fashion. And earlier this year, I signed into law “An Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation,” which requires certain professionals who suspect financial exploitation to report those concerns to the Office of Securities and to Adult Protective Services. 

These were all important steps, but I think we can do more to help protect Maine people and especially Maine seniors. We need to have a multi-agency, multi-sector response—get rid of the silos in communications—to keep older Maine people safe from abuse, neglect and all forms of exploitation. That’s why this week, I established by Executive Order the Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership.

That Partnership brings together many people and it’s the brainchild of Legal Services for the Elderly, the Elder Abuse Institute, the Long Term Care Ombudsman, the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Coalition to End Domestic Violence and it’s got support from the John T. Gorman Foundation. This is not going to cost public tax dollars, but this Partnership is important because it’s going to be formed of state agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Public Safety and the Maine State Police and statewide organizations and nonprofits. They are going to develop the “Elder Justice Roadmap” in the coming months.

I look forward to the work of this Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership and, in the meantime, I look forward to strengthening our processes and actions and strengthening law enforcement—right now, the Department of the Attorney General is hiring a specialist in their investigations division to help train local police officers to ferret out financial exploitation. So, we’re doing everything we can, we’re not going to stop, until we put an end to elder abuse and neglect and financial exploitation.

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