Senator Wallingford Seeks to Improve Elder Abuse Investigation Process

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Jefferson City — State Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, has introduced a Senate Bill pertaining to the regulation of elder abuse investigations performed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). State Rep. Holly Rehder (R-148) has also committed to introducing identical legislation in the House of Representatives. The new Senate Bill seeks to create a more standardized elder abuse investigation process and increase the level of transparency between the public and the DHSS.

Senate Bill 619 formalizes the protocol DHSS officials must follow when investigating or responding to a claim of elder abuse that has been reported to the department’s hotline. The bill requires the investigator to provide the alleged abuser, if he or she is present during the DHSS visit, with standardized written materials that inform the alleged perpetrator of their rights regarding the visit.

These rights include the opportunity to contact an attorney, and the alleged abuser will be given five minutes to read the provided materials or have them read out loud by the DHSS investigator. The investigation rights materials must also be posted on the department’s website and be available to the public at all times.

The new Senate Bill was considered Tuesday morning during the Seniors, Family and Children Committee meeting and received no testimonies for or against. Sen. Wallingford said he sees SB 619 as the first step in addressing the issues affecting the current DHSS elder abuse investigation system. The senator also plans to work with the legislature and public committees to introduce another bill before the end of session that will seek to define the role of public administrators involved in elder abuse investigations.

“I sincerely appreciate Kathy Sweeney from Channel 12 in Cape Girardeau for bringing this important issue to my attention,” Sen. Wallingford said. “I will continue to introduce legislation addressing this problem until the issue is resolved.”