Governor Cuomo Announces $2.5 Million Expansion of First-in-the-Nation Initiative to Prevent Elder Abuse
New York (STL.News) Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $2.5 million expansion of the first-in-the-nation Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams Initiative, which protects vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. The funding, which will be provided annually through September 2022, assists adults 60 and older who are at risk due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment or dementia, and social isolation and expands access to forensic accountants, geriatric psychiatrists/mental health professionals, and civil legal services. The initiative, developed by the State Office for the Aging and state Office of Victim Services, currently serves 51 counties covering 92 percent of older adults in the state, making New York’s program the first of its kind in the nation and tripling the number of teams targeting elder abuse.
“In New York we believe in standing up for the fair and equal treatment of all of our citizens and protecting our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly,” Governor Cuomo said. “This first-of-its kind initiative brings together teams of experts to protect elderly New Yorkers at risk of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, and continued funding for this important program will help ensure these teams can reach even more at-risk elders across the state as well as provide them with the potentially life-saving services they need.”
E-MDTs consist of professionals from aging services, Adult Protective Services, health care, financial services, criminal justice, victim assistance, mental health and other disciplines to coordinate investigations and develop interventions in complex cases of elder abuse. The teams—first piloted in the state in 2012—assist adults who are 60 or older and at risk for harm or exploitation due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment or dementia, and social isolation.
The initial three-year investment that launched the E-MDT Initiative in 2017 totaled $8.4 million. This investment consisted of federal Victims of Crime Act funds provided by the Office of Victim Services combined with a state investment provided by the New York State Office for the Aging. NYSOFA partnered with Lifespan of Greater Rochester, based in Monroe County, and Weill Cornell Medicine’s New York City Elder Abuse Center to manage, monitor and distribute the funding. OVS is providing an additional VOCA $2 million in funding annually and NYSOFA has allocated an additional $500,000 annually for continued support of the E-MDT Initiative from October 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2022.
Teams now cover 51 counties in 10 regions and development of teams in the 11 remaining counties in New York State is ongoing. Services provided to abuse victims through E-MDT interventions include information about and referral to other types of services, such as victim service programs or legal services, and individual advocacy, such as return of personal property, or assistance with applying for public benefits. E-MDT Coordinators provide case consultation on cases as well as access to consultation services such as a forensic accountant, geriatric psychiatrist/mental health professional, and civil legal attorney, as appropriate and available. Lifespan of Greater Rochester also holds monthly webinars for professionals on financial exploitation. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, E-MDTs continued to meet virtually, ensuring continued interventions in elder abuse cases and protections for New York’s older adults during a time when many other programs were paused.
Since 2017, E-MDT coordinators have received approximately 1,600 referrals and 670 victims have received advocacy services. In that same time period, E-MDT interventions resulted in approximately $645,000 in restitution being ordered by the courts for victims of financial exploitation cases.
OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin said, “The isolation that is a reality for many elderly citizens creates conditions that make them especially vulnerable to exploitation and less likely to report when they are victims of crime. OVS is proud to support this critical outreach to help prevent elder abuse and to ensure that when it happens, perpetrators are held to account and we thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support so these teams can reach every New Yorker who needs their assistance.”
NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen said, “We are pleased to join with our public and private partners to draw attention to, and to help prevent and mitigate elder abuse against older New Yorkers, in all its forms. Through outreach and education on the signs and symptoms of abuse to engagement with a variety of partners representing different systems, our national leading Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams are leading the way in providing a community solution to a community problem and further demonstrates New York’s commitment to older adults and why we were designated as the first Age Friendly State in the nation by the World Health Organization and the AARP.”
Lifespan President and CEO Ann Marie Cook said, “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support of older victims. The isolation and loneliness experienced by so many older adults during the pandemic exacerbated an already serious situation for older New Yorkers. Elder abuse thrives in silence and this year we have seen a surge in cases of abuse, scams and financial exploitation. The enhanced multi-disciplinary team model has proven to work and has allowed communities to collectively protect older New Yorkers. Older adults deserve to live free of abuse and mistreatment.”
Lisa Rachmuth, New York City Elder Abuse Center Administrator at Weill Cornell Medicine, said, “NYCEAC works closely with the New York City Department for the Aging, Lifespan of Greater Rochester, The New York State Office for the Aging, and our community partners to diminish risk to vulnerable older New Yorkers through the incredible collaborative work of the Enhanced Multidisciplinary Teams across the state. The NYCEAC Team proudly honors older adults by finding innovative ways to mitigate risk quickly and effectively. Thank you to the New York City Department for the Aging, Lifespan of Greater Rochester, NYSOFA, and OVS for being forward thinkers in the work to end Elder Abuse.”
New York State Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “The New York State Office of Children and Family Services is proud to partner with our sister state agencies to help vulnerable older adults maintain their dignity and independence. This initiative complements OCFS’s Adult Protective Services efforts and provides yet another tool to reach vulnerable populations of older adults who have been victimized by abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
Crime victims who were 60 or older filed a total of 5,673 claims for assistance between January 2018 and December 2020, and 3,789 were approved by OVS during that time.
Statistics show that one in 10 people older than 65 fall victim to some form of elder abuse each year. The New York State’s Committee for the Coordination of Police Services to Elderly Persons, which is supported by staff from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, assists law enforcement agencies and programs by providing training and tools so they can better serve New York’s older population.
Training covers topics including strategies to use when responding to calls for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and how advocates, service providers and Adult Protective Services professionals can collaborate with law enforcement on elder abuse cases. The Committee also developed an elder abuse toolkit outlining various forms of elder abuse; investigative checklists; training documents, videos and online courses; New York State specific statutes related to elder abuse; and informational brochures for seniors with tips to keep them safe.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “Elder abuse is a tragic reality and one we cannot allow to go unaddressed. The Committee for the Coordination of Police Services to Elderly Persons and DCJS staff are proud to support these teams and help ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are not preyed upon — and that those who try to exploit them are held accountable. We thank Governor Cuomo for funding these teams and look forward to continued collaboration between service providers and law enforcement so we can win the battle to prevent and respond to elder abuse.”
OVS provides a safety net for crime victims and/or their family members, compensating eligible individuals for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, in addition to other assistance.
NYSOFA’s home and community-based programs provide older persons access to a well-planned, coordinated package of in-home and other supportive services designed to support and supplement informal care. The agency aims to improve access to, and availability of, appropriate and cost-effective non-medical support services for older individuals to maximize their ability to age in their community and avoid higher levels of care and publicly financed care. NYSOFA achieves this through our network of 59 local Offices for the Aging.
Lifespan helps older adults and caregivers take on the challenges and opportunities of longer life. The organization is a trusted source of unbiased information, guidance and more than 30 services and advocacy for older adults and caregivers and also provides training and education for allied professionals and the community.
Weill Cornell Medicine’s NYC Elder Abuse Center was launched in 2009 to improve the way professionals, organizations and systems respond to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.