A bill that targets elder abuse has something behind it this time around that has kept it from becoming a law before – money.
The bill, which was introduced in the state Senate Friday, would make it mandatory for individuals in certain professional fields to report suspected instances of elder abuse.
Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, a bill sponsor, said she believed the proposed legislation would help protect seniors from being abused “physically, mentally, sexually and financially.”
“It really is an issue important to everyone,” Hudak said. “We have a growing number of elderly people as baby boomers are reaching a certain age.”
Professionals in the fields of medicine, law enforcement, social work, finance and others would be deemed “mandatory reporters” of cases where they have “reasonable cause to believe” that a senior citizen who is 70 or older is being abused, the bill states.
Failure to report cases of abuse could result in misdemeanor charges. At the same time, those who knowingly make a false report of abuse could also be charged. The bill does protect reporters of abuse from criminal charges and civil liability “if the report was filed in good faith.”
Hudak said the bill is long overdue. She added that Colorado is one of only three states where there exists no requirement for the reporting of suspected cases of elder abuse. And, Hudak recalled that the bill was “very popular” when it was introduced during last year's senate session, before lawmakers decided to set up a legislative task force for further study.
So what's been the problem?
“It costs a lot of money,” Hudak said.
Republican Attorney General John Suthers, who is a supporter of the bill, agreed money was one of the “biggest obstacles” the bill faced.
“There's a funded infrastructure in place for child abuse, but none for social services in elder abuse,” Suthers said in a recent interview.
But that doesn't seem to be an issue anymore. Gov. John Hickenlooper dedicated $5 million in his budget request that would go toward resources having to do with the legislation. With the money set aside for the bill, Suthers said there's “a good chance of it passing.”
Still, Suthers said there could be opposition from those representing financial institutions, who may feel that the law poses an “undue burden” on bankers.
Suthers doesn't think that banks would be burdened by the law. Using a hypothetical example, Suthers said that it is not too much to ask of a bank teller to “file a brief report” when that person sees a grandson being “verbally abusive” toward his grandmother while she's taking large sums of money out of her account.
Suthers said he suspects that many Democrats and Republicans will end up supporting the bill.
“I hope it does generate public support,” he said.