A Little Known Component of the Affordable Care Act

One thing goes without saying: a lot of emotions surround the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

But, regardless of how you feel, what you believe or where you fall on the political spectrum, the Act does one thing that, I believe, most Americans support. Even though most, including aging professionals, don’t even know it exists!

Congress passed The Elder Justice Act (EJA) with its’ funding tied up in passage of the Affordable Care Act. The EJA provides federal resources to assist and support State and community efforts. The goal? To prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

All older adults have the right to be free of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Elder abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of an elderly person 65 and older or dependent adults 18-64 years of age who are physically, developmentally or emotionally disabled. Elder abuse includes neglect by caregivers, self-neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological or verbal abuse and financial exploitation.

Elder abuse crosses all socio-economic, cultural and geographic boundaries and can occur anywhere by anyone.

Here are just a few provisions of the EJA (taken directly from the “other sources” listed below:

• Elevate elder justice issues to a national attention. Creation of (1) Offices of Elder Justice at the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice to serve programmatic, grant-making, policy and technical assistance functions relating to elder justice, (2) a public-private and a Coordinating Council to coordinate activities of all relevant federal agencies, States, communities and private and not-for-profit entities and (3) a consistent funding stream and national coordination for Adult Protective Services (APS).

• Developing forensic capacity. There is scant data to assist in the detection of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Creating new forensic expertise (similar to that in child abuse) will promote detection and increase expertise. New programs will train health professionals in both forensic pathology and geriatrics.

• Victim assistance, “safe havens” and support for at-risk elders. Elder victims’ needs, which are rarely addressed, will be better met by supporting creation of “safe havens” for seniors who are not safe where they live and development of programs focusing on the special needs of at-risk elders and older victims.

• Increasing Security, Collaboration and Consumer Information in Long-Term Care.
o Improving prompt reporting of crimes in long-term care settings
o Creating a national program of criminal background checks for persons seeking employment in nursing homes and other long‐term care facilities.
o Enhancing long-term care staffing
o Promoting accountability through a new federal law to prosecute abuse and neglect in nursing homes

• Training. Training to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is supported both within individual disciplines and in multi-disciplinary (such as public health-social service-law enforcement) settings.

• Increasing prosecution. Technical, investigative, coordination and victim assistance resources will be provided to law enforcement to support elder justice cases. Preventive efforts will be enhanced by supporting community policing efforts to protect at-risk elders.

Want to know more?
National Health Policy Forum
Elder Justice Coalition
American Psychological Association
American Bar Association

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