HELENA – Officials with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), Montana Department of Justice (DOJ), AARP Montana, and the Montana Elder Fraud and Exploitation Prevention Network are joining together in an effort to raise awareness about elder abuse.
At an event held at the AARP Montana offices, Montana Lt. Governor Mike Cooney commended the state and local organizations that work year-round to help protect the elderly from abuse and exploitation.
Lt. Gov. Cooney said that citizens in Montana and across the country need to be aware of the signs of elder abuse.
“We all share the responsibility to help protect the elderly,” Cooney said. “I encourage all Montanans to become more involved in addressing this important issue. And it starts by being aware of elder abuse, and learning ways to prevent it.”
In 2017 Montana Adult Protection Services (APS) received 7,000 calls for service. This is the highest number of calls APS has received over the past six years.
APS Bureau Chief Mike Hagenlock says Montana has a growing number of elderly citizens, which means as a state, we have to be vigilant.
“What we need to understand is that elder abuse is not okay,” said Hagenlock, “It is not a natural process, and we want people to understand that this is not a stranger game. The majority of our allegations do involve trusted people.”
Hagenlock added that doesn’t mean a family member or caretaker can’t be trusted, but that trust should also be verified.
Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox issued a statement urging vigilance and compassion for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a call to action. The cases we see of older Montanans being abused and exploited are heartbreaking and should never be ignored. Abused adults aren’t nameless strangers who don’t deserve our love and support. They are our parents and grandparents; our brothers and sisters; our friends and neighbors. I’m proud that Montanans have a reputation of looking out for each other. If you suspect a case of elder abuse, don’t turn a blind eye—take action.”
If a person suspects elder abuse might be happening, they should contact either Adult Protection Services or their local law enforcement.
Montana Department of Justice’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit hotline can be reached at (800) 376-1115.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Adult Protective Services Bureau can be reached at (844) 277-9300.