Butler County lawmaker re-introduces elder abuse bill

Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, last week re-introduced his Elder Justice Act. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

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Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, last week re-introduced his Elder Justice Act. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

A Butler County lawmaker has renewed efforts aimed at curbing abuse of senior citizens, a measure that failed to pass last year after criticism that it added more workload without any funding support.

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Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said “the elderly is an under-represented class” and supports Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford’s Elder Justice Act. STAFF FILE/2015

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said “the elderly is an under-represented class” and supports Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford’s Elder Justice Act. STAFF FILE/2015

Combined ShapeCaption
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said “the elderly is an under-represented class” and supports Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford’s Elder Justice Act. STAFF FILE/2015

Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford’s Elder Justice Act failed to get out of a Senate committee after seven hearings last year.

The Elder Justice Act received support from the Ohio Attorney General’s and Butler County Prosecutor’s offices and a unanimous vote by the Ohio House, but opponents testified in the Ohio Senate it was an unfunded mandate.

Retherford, R-Hamilton, said changes have been made to address the issues raised.

RELATED: Ohio House passes elder protection bill nearly two years ago

Among other things, the bill would:

  • require the Department of Job and Family Services to create and report on a registry to identify patterns of abuse
  • require employees in financial fields to report suspected elder abuse or elderly victims of financial crimes
  • establish a statewide Elder Abuse Commission to increase awareness of elder abuse and improve judicial response to elder abuse

One opponent of the bill, Franklin County Office on Aging Director Antonia Carroll, testified in June 2015 in the Senate committee the bill would add more workload without any additional funding.

Retherford said he and now former Ohio Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, moved in 2014 to put a $10 million appropriation for Adult Protective Services in the Mid-Biennium Review bill in anticipation of the Elder Justice Act "because that was the number one concern we heard back."

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has supported the legislation since it was first introduced.

“I always look favorably on any opportunity to assist an awareness of elder abuse, and one of the vehicles for this is captured by this bill,” he said. “The elderly is an under-represented class … and are the elderly sometimes gets overlooked. They are a vulnerable class, and it’s because of their age.”

Elder abuse is an often an unreported or under-reported crime, Gmoser said, especially when it comes to financial crimes.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, those 65 years and older was the third-rated age group to be susceptible to identify theft, and about 59 percent of the violent crimes against the elderly were committed near or at their homes.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine submitted written testimony the Ohio Senate, as well as the Ohio House, indicating the bill “will complement our efforts and enhance the safety of Ohio’s seniors.”

“My priority is protecting Ohio’s families — including senior citizens,” DeWine wrote. “Our office regularly receives calls from victims of elder abuse and their families seeking assistance.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office started in 2014 the Elder Justice Initiative to increase prosecution of crimes against the elderly. Several sections of the AG’s office are involved in the initiative, including consumer protection, health care fraud, special prosecution and Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

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