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What's being done to tackle elder abuse in Humboldt County

Financial exploitation is the most common type of abuse towards elders in America (Getty Images){ }{p}{/p}
Financial exploitation is the most common type of abuse towards elders in America (Getty Images)

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As an ombudsman, Leanne Langston advocated for those in skilled nursing and residential care facilities across the North Coast. Part of her job includes looking for the warning signs of elder abuse.

"I see a lot more than what I would like to see, which is unfortunate," Langston said. "It could be as simple as trying to scam somebody out of their money, it could be physical, it could be isolation, a form of neglect."

Humboldt County is home to more than 25,000 seniors and that number is expected to increase over the next few years. That segment of the population was the subject of a recent Humboldt County Grand Jury report examining the issue of elder abuse and the services and safety nets for those affected.

Adult Protective Services is one of the agencies mentioned in the report. This division of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is a key resource if elder abuse is suspected.

"We respond to reports of abuse and neglect and we have a phone number, where that's kind of the first start if somebody is concerned about somebody in our community," Adult Services Program Manager Keri Schrock. "One in 10, people over the age of 60, have experienced some form of elder abuse."

The Grand Jury report found in part that APS could do more to publicize elder abuse awareness.

"We have been tabling now that things have kind of opened up," Schrock said. "We do provide mandated reporter training for any agencies or programs that work with the elderly."

While the pandemic has limited its ability to do community outreach, APS has been able to start it up again recently. However, the pandemic has also created challenges when it comes to reporting given some victims could be stuck with their perpetrator.

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming created the Elder and Vulnerable Adult Service Team or EVAST shortly after starting her term. The Grand Jury report said it has significantly improved the prosecution and conviction rates for elder abuse cases.

"We can say this is something we really have to put our resources into investigate and really see what's going on here," said Fleming.

The Grand Jury recommended the DA and APS continue their joint application for Measure Z funds for EVAST.

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If you or someone you know may be a victim of elder abuse, you can contact Humboldt County Adult Protective Services at 707-476-2100. You can view more of Adult Protect Services' resources on its website.

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