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Department of Aging Calls for Critical Updates to the Older Adults Protective Services Act in the New Legislative Session

02/10/2021

Harrisburg, PA With the ongoing rise of financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) is urging the General Assembly to prioritize and enact critical updates to the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) in its new 2021-22 Legislative Session.

Enacted in 1987, OAPSA has served as Pennsylvania's system for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of older adults who are at imminent risk of these serious offenses. The department, along with many stakeholders and the courts, agree on the critical importance of protecting older Pennsylvanians and have called on these much-needed changes to the law for more than a decade.

"As the department responsible for advocacy and protection of Pennsylvania's older adults, updating OAPSA would help to adequately address changes in the direct care workforce and the facilities that serve older adults.  It would also help to respond to the rise of financial exploitation as a form of elder abuse," said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. Unfortunately, we were unable to get these updates across the finish line before the end of the last session. I am pleased to see that Senator Mensch has issued a co-sponsorship memo and hope we can see these legislative changes quickly proposed and passed during the new legislative session."

The department is seeking the following critical updates to OAPSA:

  • Strengthening background checks for all employees, both new and current, who work with older adults in a long-term care setting
  • Identifying individuals who should never have an opportunity to work as a caregiver to older adults
  • Expanding the list of mandatory reporters of abuse and facilities whose employees are required to report abuse
  • Providing a clear process for reporting financial exploitation and related training for financial institutions

In September, the department released the findings of its Financial Exploitation Study of older adults. Governor Wolf directed the study to be done in his 2019 Executive Order issued to protect vulnerable populations in the commonwealth.

"The study issued five recommendations. Two of the recommendations related to passage of updates to OAPSA to help further protect vulnerable seniors from financial exploitation. Another recommendation to create a financial exploitation task force, comprised of public and private sector representatives, has been initiated by the department and the task force is working to develop comprehensive and collaborative approaches to help tackle financial exploitation in a meaningful way," said Secretary Torres. "However, amending OAPSA is critical to strengthen protections for older adults and help prevent them from becoming victims."

Torres noted the volume, type, and scope of abuse has increased dramatically in the more than 30 years since OAPSA became PDA's legal guide to protecting older Pennsylvanians. According to the department's 2019-2020 Older Adults Protective Services Annual Report, cases of suspected elder abuse has increased 80% over the previous five years.

The department's Protective Services Office investigates and supports older adults who become victims of abuse. Anyone suspecting elder abuse should call the statewide reporting hotline at 1-800-490-8505, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jack Eilber, agingcomms@pa.gov


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