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Wisconsin Attorney General admits funding is 'real challenge' in elder abuse prevention programs

Wisconsin Lame Duck Lawsuit
Posted at 7:08 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 08:08:41-05

Wisconsin Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources says elder abuse reports in Wisconsin have nearly tripled in 17 years -- from 3,200 cases in 2001, to nearly 9,000 in 2018.

"These can be devastating crimes for people. These can be cases where seniors have spent a lifetime saving up and people's life savings can be impacted," said Attorney General Josh Kaul.

"Somebody's parent or grandparent or spouse or sibling could be subject to physical abuse or neglect when they have medical conditions," Kaul said in a virtual interview with the I-Team's Kristin Byrne.

Attorney General Kaul is well aware of the disturbing data and says the subject of elder abuse remains a priority for his office, especially during a pandemic when seniors are so isolated.

"What solutions do you have or does the state have to fix this problem that just seems to be getting worse?" Byrne asked Kaul.

"There are a number of things that Wisconsinites can do to help. Make sure you are reaching out to your friends, your neighbors, your friends, your family members, who may be potential victims of elder abuse -- talk to them about what's going on in their lives and if there are concerns make sure to take steps," Kaul answered.

The Wisconsin Attorney along with the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources launched a hotline (1-833-586-0107) and website back in May where people can report the abuse. Kaul says raising awareness is part of the solution.

Another option is to report elder abuse to your local office.

The I-Team spoke with several Aging and Disability Resource Centers in southeast Wisconsin. Elder abuse complaints, in places like Milwaukee County, for example, are increasing during the pandemic.

Funding for programs aimed to detect and prevent elder abuse, however, seems to be remaining static.

The ADRC of Waukesha County told the I-Team its elder abuse and neglect dollars come from the state.

"Our State allocation has not decreased, it has been $74,782 for over 10 years. So even though it has not decreased, with the aging population increasing, the money has not kept up with the growing population. Our Adult Protective Services Basic County Allocation, which also is state dollars has not increased in many years as well," said Mary Smith, Waukesha County's ADRC Manager.

"They don't have enough funds to be doing what they need to be doing in our community. What do you say to that?" Byrne asked Kaul.

"That is a real challenge and that's going to become an increasing challenge as the population continues to age in Wisconsin," Kaul said.

"What's important is that we work to prevent these cases from happening before they do," he said.

To read more about the signs of elder abuse, click here.

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