Elder abuse issues discussed at N.C. Senior Tarheel legislature

Published 10:39 am Friday, April 6, 2012

Awareness campaign begins May 17
Ernie Giannini of Polk County, the local delegate to the N.C. Senior Tarheel Legislature (STHL), recently attended the organization’s first meeting of 2012, held in Raleigh, N.C.
The primary focus of the meeting was elder abuse and other aging issues. Governor Beverly Perdue encouraged STHL members to make a difference in North Carolina by becoming familiar with aging issues and advocate for vulnerable individuals. Perdue specifically identified elder abuse as a topic to keep on the minds of state legislators.
Perdue said while ageism does exist, “we are seeing less of this stereotype in the media and recognizing that older adults are more active, involved, engaged and ambitious than previous generations.” She reminded the group that by 2030, more than 80 counties in our state are expected to have more people age 60 and older than 17 and younger.
Perdue specifically identified elder abuse as a developing problem in North Carolina. Newly appointed Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Al Delia, added to the challenge. He advised the group to “become familiar with aging policy initiatives in order to effectively advocate to lawmakers about the significance of Adult Protective Services.”
According to Dennis Streets, director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), the number of Adult Protective Service reports to county departments of social services increased from more than 14,000 in 2006-07 to nearly 20,000 in 2010-11. Currently, DAAS is working with the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys to improve access to justice for victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Streets explained some barriers to the justice system include a lack of knowledge and understanding of “elder abuse” on the part of the judicial system and a lack of understanding of the justice system on the part of the victims.
An Elder Abuse Awareness Campaign begins on Mother’s Day, May 13 and ends on Father’s Day, June 17. Everyone is encouraged to wear purple ribbons to offer support for this campaign.
During the two-day meeting, STHL learned about other aging initiatives such as a new project through Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) to develop an integrated delivery model for Medicare and Medicaid services.
The STHL promotes citizen involvement and advocacy concerning aging issues before the General Assembly and assesses the legislative needs of older adults by convening a forum modeled after the North Carolina General Assembly.
The 2012 legislative priorities for the STHL include:
1) Restore funding to sustain Project C.A.R.E.
2) Maintain funding for the Home and Community Care Block Grant.
3) Maintain funding for senior centers.
4) Provide Dental Care for North Carolina’s Adult Special Care Population.
5) Mandate pre-employment and random drug testing for employees of nursing, assisted living facilities and adult care homes.
One delegate and one alternate represent every older adult in the state’s 100 counties. For more information, visit the STHL website at www.ncdhhs.gov/aging/sthl.htm. The next STHL meeting will be June 2012.