Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) will focus on strengthening efforts nationwide to combat elder abuse, NAAG President and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced today.
Schmidt, who was elected in June to a one-year term as NAAG president, said during his presidency he will focus on working with attorneys general around the country to help all states gather expertise and build capacity to fight elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The members of the association are the 56 state, territorial and District of Columbia attorneys general.
“Elder abuse has been called the silent epidemic of our time,” Attorney General Schmidt said. “It is a crime that too often operates in the shadows. But the numbers are staggering, and as the population age 65 and older continues to grow, it is clear that we all need to do more to combat this serious problem.”
Between 1900 and 2010, the number of Americans age 65 and older grew from fewer than 5 million to more than 40 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Over the same time, the portion of the population in that age bracket rose from about three percent to more than 12 percent. By one estimate, only one in every 24 cases of elder abuse is detected or reported. Despite that underreporting, statistically one in every 10 Americans age 65 or older who lives at home will become a victim of abuse.
Attorney General Schmidt’s presidential initiative will be titled “Protecting America’s Seniors: Attorneys General United Against Elder Abuse.” It will culminate in a NAAG Presidential Initiative Summit that Attorney General Schmidt will host in Manhattan, Kan., on April 17-18, 2018.
To assist in guiding the year-long effort, Schmidt has appointed a bipartisan working group of four other state attorneys general: Mark Brnovich (R-Ariz.), Chris Carr (R-Ga.), Peter Kilmartin (D-R.I.), and Ellen Rosenblum (D-Ore.). Each has led innovative efforts to combat elder abuse in his or her respective state.
“There is no partisan divide on the commitment of state attorneys general to protecting seniors and combating elder abuse in all its forms,” Schmidt said. “I’m grateful for the commitment of my colleagues as we focus on this effort. Every state is different in its approach. My hope is that when this year is ended, we have identified some of the best ideas from around the country and made them readily available to adapt for other states.”
Some attorneys general have addressed elder abuse in their state by:
- Establishing an Elder Abuse Unit within their office to help state residents;
- Protecting senior citizens from financial exploitation through both education and prosecution;
- Educating seniors and their families on crime prevention and adult bullying; and
- Providing techniques on how to avoid scams and victimization
In Kansas, Schmidt last year reorganized the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to establish a new Fraud and Abuse Litigation Division that focuses, in part, on elder abuse. That division houses the statutory Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Unit established by the legislature and also the prosecution of financial crimes involving insurance or securities. By law, the Fraud and Abuse Litigation Division also coordinates closely with the consumer-protection and Medicaid fraud and abuse enforcement work in the attorney general’s office.