Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a 10-bill package to protect Michigan's senior citizens and vulnerable adults. The measures encourage the reporting of elder abuse and strengthen penalties for those who are convicted.
"The abuse of seniors and vulnerable adults is one of the fastest growing crimes in our state, and law enforcement agencies will now have better tools to help protect potential victims from financial and physical abuses," Snyder said.
The governor called for the legislation's passage in his special messages on health and wellness and public safety.
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker sponsored Senate Bills 461, 464 and 466 in the package.
"This legislation will make an immediate and noticeable positive impact in the lives of seniors and their families," Schuitmaker said. "Elder abuse is a serious problem that often goes unreported. Our goal is to give senior organizations and law enforcement better tools to combat and prosecute those who are guilty of these deplorable crimes and strengthen the penalties the perpetrators face."
Senate Bill 461 prevents a person from benefiting from the estate of a deceased person if the person who is to receive benefits has been convicted of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. SB 464 increases coordination between state and local authorities to expedite abuse investigations. And SB 466 establishes a public notification system for missing seniors, similar to the Amber Alert for missing children, called the Mozelle Senior or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert Act. The measures are now Public Acts 173, 175, and 176 of 2012.
"Today older adults can rest assured of the serious legal consequences now in place for anyone that assaults, demeans, intimidates, robs, and otherwise abuses or exploits them," said state Office of Services to the Aging Director Kari Sederburg. "Senior advocates, Governor Snyder, and the Michigan Legislature are to be commended for their unwavering leadership in passing this package of bills so critical to the well-being of seniors, on an issue that has become so distressingly common."
Other bills in the package are:
SB 454, sponsored by Sen. Mike Nofs, allows vulnerable adult victims to give court testimony via closed-circuit television or prerecorded video. It is now Public Act 170 of 2012.
SB 455, sponsored by Sen. Tory Rocca, provides sentencing guidelines to enhanced punishment for criminals who fraudulently obtain a senior's signature. It is now Public Act 169 of 2012.
SB 457, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Colbeck, allows county medical examiners to establish death review teams to investigate the unexpected death of a vulnerable adult under suspicious circumstances. It is now Public Act 171 of 2012.
SB 459, sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons, increases the penalties for the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and strengthens the punishment for criminals who fraudulently obtain a senior's signature. It is now Public Act 172 of 2012.
SB 462, sponsored by Sen. Steve Bieda, establishes reporting requirements for employees of long-term care facilities when they suspect or have knowledge of abuse and neglect at a facility. It is now Public Act 174 of 2012.
SB 465, sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, strengthens penalties for criminals who embezzle from seniors. It is now Public Act 168 of 2012.
SB 468, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, prohibits a court magistrate from refusing complaints of abuse against vulnerable adults that are filed by someone other than the alleged victim. It is now Public Act 177 of 2012.
Visit www.legislature.mi.gov for more information on the bills.