The Mission of the Elder Protection Initiative (EPI) is to promote the safety and security of older Vermonters through enforcement actions, legislative advocacy, public education, and collaboration with stakeholder agencies and organizations. The EPI consists of staff from the Attorney General Office’s Criminal, Public Protection & Human Services Divisions.
We’re prosecuting cases, shaping laws, providing public education, and working with other agencies and organizations to support and protect older Vermonters. Our current and recent projects are listed below.
Shaping New Laws
Informing New Residential Care Home Regulations
Currently, the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) is re-drafting the regulations that govern residential care homes in Vermont. The EPI is providing DAIL input on this re-draft based on, among other things, its members’ recent experience litigating against the owner/operator of the Pillsbury facilities; investigating and settling potential Consumer Protection Act claims against Woodbine Senior Living LLC relating to Spring Village at Essex; and prosecuting the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable adults in long-term care settings.
Contributing to the Older Vermonters Act
Between September 2018 and November 2019, the EPI served as a member of the Older Vermonters Act Working Group (“OVAWG”). In 2018, the Vermont legislature passed, and the Governor approved, a law (Act 172) calling for the establishment of the OVAWG. The law tasked the OVAWG with developing recommendations for an “Older Vermonters Act” that would provide for “a comprehensive and coordinated system of services and supports”—including protections—for Older Vermonters. The OVAWG submitted its report in November 2019.
Opposing Cuts to Older Vermonters’ Federal Food & Nutrition Benefits
In December 2019, Attorney General Donovan and the EPI submitted comments in opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut SNAP (3SquaresVT) benefits. The proposal would cut $25 million in benefits to Vermonters. It would cut the average monthly 3SquaresVT benefit (per household) from $216 to $134. The cuts would disproportionately impact older Vermonters and people living with disabilities.
Building VT’s Capacity to Address Elder Abuse & Exploitation
Advising VT’s First Statewide Elder Abuse Research Project
Supported by a grant from the United States Department of Justice and Vermont Department of Public Safety, the Vermont-based Crime Research Group is undertaking a one-year study on the victimization of, and criminal justice response to, vulnerable adults and the elderly in Vermont. As of November 1, 2019, the EPI is serving as an advisory group member to this important project, which could provide significant insights on how Vermont agencies and communities can improve their response to elder abuse and exploitation, going forward.
Collaborating with Pilot Elder Abuse Response Team in Windsor County
Senior Solutions (The Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont) is leading the development and implementation of a regional “multi-disciplinary team” (or “MDT”) to respond to “abuse in later life” in Windsor County. The MDT is made up of local police, prosecutors, mental health agencies, case managers, and others. The EPI is collaborating with Senior Solutions and this MDT to explore best practices in response to elder abuse and exploitation in Windsor County, as well as the potential statewide applicability of elder abuse MDTs generally.
Partnering with 2-1-1 to bring supportive resources to Vermonters in need
Vermont 2-1-1 is a program of the United Ways of Vermont that maintains a 24/7 hotline (2-1-1) and searchable online database to answer these exact kinds of questions. We’re collaborating with 2-1-1 to raise awareness about their valuable services and help enhance their ability to assist callers with concerns regarding elder abuse and exploitation. Dial 2-1-1 or visit their website with your questions.
Consumer Guide on Vermont Long-Term Care Options
Making decisions about moving yourself or a loved one to a long-term care home can be emotionally difficult. It can be practically, difficult, as well, given the range long-term care options. In Vermont, we have “nursing homes,” “assisted living residences” and two categories of “residential care homes.” What are the differences between these kinds of facilities? In January 2020, to help consumers understand and navigate Vermont’s long-term care landscape, the EPI partnered with the Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent living to develop an educational guide for consumers: “Comparing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Residences, and Residential Care Homes in Vermont.”
Training case managers & home health workers on elder financial exploitation
In July 2019, the EPI joined the Department of Financial Regulation, the Office of the Public Guardian, and Vermont Legal Aid to provide a training to case managers, social workers and home health workers on “Spotting and Addressing Financial Exploitation” of their clients. Organized by the VT Association of Area Agencies on Agency, the training took place at Gifford Hospital in Randolph, Vermont. The EPI expects to repeat this training in the future.
In April and May of 2018, the EPI visited each of Vermont’s 14 counties to listen to perspectives on older Vermonters’ greatest needs, concerns and vulnerabilities. EPI members met with dozens of older Vermonters at senior centers, senior meal sites and senior housing units. They met with approximately 230 representatives of 65 different organizations that serve older Vermonters, including the Area Agencies on Aging, SASH, Meals on Wheels, home health agencies, hospitals, Veterans Affairs, the VT Alzheimer’s Association, the Vermont Center For Aging, AARP-VT and Legal Aid, among others.