Senate approves senior protection legislation

LANSING —The Michigan Senate approved an 18-bill legislative package this week to help protect Michigan’s seniors, encourage increased reporting of elder abuse and strengthen penalties for those convicted of abusing a senior, said Sen. Judy Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee.

“It is estimated that annually 73,000 Michigan seniors are victimized by abuse, neglect and exploitation,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “This is about protecting our most vulnerable adults. As committee chair, I have heard the heartbreaking stories of victims and their families, and I am proud to help shepherd through the Senate this comprehensive, bipartisan package to protect our seniors.”

Included in the package is Senate Bill 459, sponsored by Emmons, which would crack down on financial exploitation of seniors by enhancing the punishment for criminals who fraudulently obtain a senior’s signature.

“An important tool to combat elder abuse is ensuring that the punishment fits the crime,” Emmons said.

Gov. Rick Snyder expressed his support for the legislation.

“Elder abuse is the fastest-growing crime in Michigan and current laws, frankly, do not do enough to protect seniors,” Snyder said. “I want to thank Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the Senate for working together to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to protect seniors from financial and physical abuse.”

The Senate-approved package would further protect those who are at risk of being exploited without placing an unmanageable burden on their guardians. Other measures include:
• Improving coordination between state and local authorities;
• Enhancing banking, annuity and insurance protections for seniors;
• Establishing reporting requirements for suspected abuse and neglect or knowledge of abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities;
• Creating a senior medical alert for missing seniors, similar to an Amber Alert; and
• Allowing victims to give testimony via closed-circuit television or a prerecorded video.

Senate Bills 454-457, 459-468, 604-605, 706 and 777 have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.