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Assembly Approves Elder Abuse Bill

May 20, 2000|TRACY WILSON

A bill that would encourage banks and other financial institutions to report suspected elder abuse to authorities has passed the state Assembly with bipartisan support.

The legislation by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) is expected to go before the state Senate in coming weeks. If approved and signed by Gov. Gray Davis, the measure would become law next year.

Elder abuse prevention has become a hot issue among state lawmakers in recent years as reports of neglect, financial exploitation and physical abuse have skyrocketed. And the problem is only expected to get worse in coming years as the nation's elderly population grows.

Financial abuse can be particularly devastating, advocates of the bill say.

By forging checks or stealing credit cards, a caregiver can drain a lifetime of savings from a vulnerable senior in a matter of months--leaving the victim penniless.

"Senior citizens are too often the victims of financial fraud perpetrated by members of their own family," Jackson said in a written statement. "Such crimes are taking place with increasing frequency and it is often the neighborhood bank teller who is the first to spot such abuse."

Jackson's bill, AB 2253, would allow employees of financial institutions to report suspected abuse to police and social workers without fear of liability. Currently, bank employees are prohibited by law from disclosing a customer's financial information.

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