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Elder Abuse Law Unanimously Progresses Through Legislature

Oregon has a problem with Elder Abuse. An issue often over-looked by the general public, the physical and financial abuse of some of the Northwest's most vulnerable people is an all-too-common problem that too often goes undetected, and thus unreported and unprosecuted, as the Oregonian reported earlier this year.

AARP similarly earlier raised eyebrows when it reported last year that Oregon elders lose at least $1 million per year from financial abuse.

Oregon has a robust Elder Abuse statute, which provides for criminal and civil penalties for abuse of vulnerable persons, including recovery of triple the amount of damages. Further, it allows a lengthy seven-year statute of limitations, so if past abusive conduct is later discovered, victims can still seek justice through the courts.

Despite the strong language of the statute, however, enforcement has remained a problem.

This week, recognizing the severity of the problem and the need to help find a workable solution to increase enforcement and protect the area's seniors and other vulnerable persons, the Oregon Legislature has moved one step closer.

House Bill 2325, sponsored by Representatives Barker, Dembrow, Smith and Tomei, has experienced something rather unique this legislative session: consensus.

Upon adoption, HB 2325 will create a volunteer Elder Abuse Work Group to study and make recommendations related to important state-wide elder abuse issues. The independent group will also work with current state agencies already charged with abuse prevention, thereby helping to attack the problem from multiple angles.

After the bill passed the House of Representatives back in April -- unanimously, no less -- it moved on to the Oregon Senate, where yesterday it took a huge step toward becoming law. After amending certain provisions in the bill, the Senate passed it 28-0, with two abstentions.

The bill now goes back to the House for another vote, before being presented to Governor Kitzhaber for signature.

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