We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the Elder Justice Act, landmark legislation to elevate the federal response to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. While its funding authorizations required further action that was in short supply, the creation of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) was an important and continuing step to set federal priorities and prompt action at local levels.
The Council comes together under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with the Secretary serving as Chair. Membership spans roughly a dozen agencies that serve the needs of elders and people with disabilities, among them the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Social Security Administration, Departments of Justice and Labor. The permanent group meets twice a year, adopting priorities in 2013 that resulted in competitive grant funding, the creation of a National Adult Protective Services Resources Center, and a National Adult Mistreatment Reporting System.
Among other activities, the EJCC declared 2019 a “year of listening.” As such, they hosted a series of listening sessions at meetings and conferences across the country, also inviting online recommendations, to collect input for their ongoing and future work.
The Minnesota Elder Justice Center’s Board Secretary and Founding Chair, Iris C. Freeman, addressed one such listening session at the Consumer Voice Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on November 4, 2019. The following is her statement on behalf of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center. Its three recommendations could aptly be called, “Three New Year’s Resolutions for Federal Elder Justice Leadership.”
Statement of Iris C. Freeman, Founding Chair, Board of Directors, Minnesota Elder Justice Center
With thanks to Consumer Voice and our Official Listeners, it is a pleasure to address the future of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council today, because coordination has always been at the heart of our work in Minnesota:
- helping victims navigate and connect complex systems,
- working with stakeholders in counties across Minnesota to develop effective Multi-Disciplinary Teams, and
- advancing consensus policy reforms through ongoing working relationships with public agencies and private associations.
- State Agency Coordination: While efficiency alone cannot substitute for adequate staff and funding, we recognize the value of clear, productive communication among the many agencies that address elder abuse. Overcoming decades of barriers, quirky acronyms and general mistrust, we look to the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to study where states have overcome that kind of dysfunction… and create best-practices models/templates for state-level interagency cooperation. We are thinking specifically of service regulators, reimbursement authorities, adult protection, and ombudsmen. We recognize that while every state has a different agency framework and laws, there are still productive understandings and working relationships that support effective client service, budgeting, and policy reforms. Let us identify and share the best models, such as interagency policies, memoranda of understanding, data-sharing statutes, among others.
- Develop a National Adult Protective Services (APS) System: From its inception, the Elder Justice Coordinating Council has advanced an APS system reform based upon “standardized data collection, a core set of service provision standards, and best practices.” We recognize the advances in data collection and best practices so far, while noting there are miles to go. Yet absent adequate funding, APS programs across the country will rely on uneven state and local funding, resulting in victim services that vary by zip code. Federal APS funding remains a fundamental need, so we cannot fail to call it out and urge your unremitting attention to this issue.
- Long-term Workforce and Federal Immigration Policy: Finally, and with clear recognition that this is a touchy topic, we call on the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to engage HHS/ACL, Labor, Immigration and other federal agencies in a study and report to Congress with recommendations for integrating thoughtful immigration policy with the current and projected nationwide needs for health care workers who serve the elderly and others with chronic care needs. How to build a trained, supported, adequately-paid long-term care workforce is by no means a new or even emerging issue. I have worked in this field over four decades and watched the need deepen. Achieving a vibrant pool of frontline care workers, along with services and support for families, are at the heart of PREVENTING maltreatment of elders and vulnerable adults.