CHANA Takes Leadership Role In Eradicating Elder Abuse in Baltimore City

Thanks to a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women, CHANA is now creating a model of collaboration in Baltimore City designed to eradicate elder abuse and provide justice for its victims.

The grant, given to only four organizations in the nation, allows CHANA, through its SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders division, to administer a series of critical trainings to individuals in Baltimore City who come in close contact with potential victims and elder abuse cases. These trainings—which range from identifying elder abuse and applying the law to sentencing guidelines – will be offered to law enforcement officials, city prosecutors, city judges and victim service provides, such as adult protective services.

The trainings, which began last fall, provide law enforcement and other organizations with the tools to work across departments to better identify cases of elder abuse and successfully prosecute them, as well as develop a victim services system of response.

In addition, in the long term, the Baltimore City Police Department is expected to use the information garnered from these trainings to integrate it into the Police Academy’s curriculum.

“The training afforded by this federal grant gives us insight and practical knowledge about the intricacies and permutations of the various crimes committed against our older citizens. As we work to create a safer Baltimore City, collaborations such as this for elder abuse serve as a replicable model for change,” says Major Steve Hohman, Baltimore Police Department.

“This grant has identified gaps in laws and policies to older adult victimizations,” explains Liz Briscoe, Baltimore City Health Department Aging and CARE Services. “This multidisciplinary approach …. (will) ultimately increase victim safety and offender accountability.”

Elder abuse is a growing crisis, with one to two million reports made in the United States. It’s estimated the real number is higher – with only one in 14 cases being reported. Two-thirds of elder abuse perpetrators are family members – spouses, children, grandchildren.

Jacke Schroeder, director of CHANA’s SAFE program, adds that because family members represent the bulk of elder abuse cases, many victims are afraid to tell on them.

That’s one of the reasons elder abuse cases are often not prosecuted.

In addition, says Schroeder, “Older adults are not considered to be good witnesses. Some can’t make it to court and some face cognitive decline, often from when the case begins to when it is finally prosecuted. The saddest part is that these cases are difficult to process, and we want to change that.”

New Elder Abuse Services

As part of the grant, CHANA surveyed older adults and organizations that serve them, to determine what the community needed in order to assist victims. It became increasingly clear that the number one need was an advocate who could help victims navigate the system and also find safety.

To address this, CHANA recently hired an Elder Victim Advocate to form relationships with Baltimore City senior centers and senior housing facilities, police officers and Adult Protective Services, among others, to be there for victims when they need someone to stand up for them and ensure that older adult victims receive appropriate support.

Second, the survey respondents indicated that affordable legal services were vital. Based on this information, CHANA formed a partnership with Maryland Legal Aid to have a full-time and paralegal dedicated to CHANA’s SAFE clients.

As part of this partnership Legal Aid will be serving older adults, 50 plus, who live in either Baltimore City and Baltimore County, regardless of income.

“We are very fortunate,” explains Schroeder, “in that typically Legal Aid is restricted to serving only those who are over 60 years old, live in the city and have income limitations. With this partnership, we are able to serve all clients, over the age of 50, regardless of their income and where in Baltimore they live.”

Since SAFE’s establishment in 2013, CHANA has become a statewide leader in efforts to address this growing public safety issues. Working closely with area hospitals, including Sinai, Northwest and Mercy Hospitals, and GBMC, as well as domestic violence organizations like the House of Ruth, SAFE has become a referral spot for suspected cases.

The work that CHANA is doing through the federal grant will expand its elder abuse role in the community.

“Moving forward, the impact that this grant will have in Baltimore will further allow those serving the elder population to coordinate resources and services to better enhance the quality of life for so many older adults throughout the city,” says Jasmine Norris, Baltimore City Adult Protective Services.

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