A bill that would mandate elder abuse reporting in Colorado is finally on its way to becoming law.
Senate Bill 111 requires individuals in certain professional fields to report known or suspected cases of abuse involving people age 70 or older.
The bill passed the House May 1 on a 56-8 vote, after it had previously breezed through the Senate.
Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, a House sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is “over 20 years” in the making.
“It's failed several times, but we've finally got it right,” Schafer said during a recent House debate. “This demographic is as important to protect as it is with child abuse.”
Schafer said the issue is of particular importance to Jefferson County, which has the highest numbers of seniors in the state. Fellow Jefferson County lawmaker, Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, carried the bill in the Senate.
Those deemed as “mandatory reporters” include professionals in health care, finance, social work and law enforcement. Those who fail to properly report cases of physical, mental, financial or sexual abuse within 24 hours could face a misdemeanor penalty.
Investigations of elder abuse cases in Colorado have increased by an average of 2 percent every year. During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, about 11,000 elder abuse cases were filed in the state, with more than 4,700 of them requiring a law enforcement investigation, according to information from the General Assembly's Legislative Council.
Several previous attempts at passing similar legislation had failed, primarily because the money needed to support the effort wasn't there. That's not the case this year, with $5 million in funding for the measure having been appropriated into next year's budget.
Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, also a bill sponsor, reminded her colleagues that Colorado is one of only three states that doesn't have a mandatory elder abuse reporting law.
“That's pretty pathetic and the time is now,” Stephens said during a recent House debate. “Financial abuse of seniors has become a huge issue. This is really, really critical.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to sign the bill at the Seniors' Resource Center in Wheat Ridge on May 16, according to Schafer.