This is a press release from out of Salem this morning. Only the test of time will show if it worked or not.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2009
House Votes to Protect Vulnerable Oregonians from Abuse
HB 2442 would make sweeping changes to adult protective services in Oregon
SALEM – Oregonians with developmental disabilities will have substantial new protections from abuse, under a bill passed by the Oregon House of Representatives today. HB 2442, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) and Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukee), makes sweeping changes to adult protective services in Oregon. Passage of the bill was a top priority for House Democrats this session.
“Crimes against people with disabilities are everyone’s business,” said Gelser. “This bill is an important first step towards protecting the safety of our most vulnerable neighbors. Everyone deserves to be safe in their own home, and people with developmental disabilities should be no exception.”
In 2007, the Oregonian began profiling the significant problem of abuse and neglect of adults with developmental disabilities in state paid care. They reported that one in five adults with developmental disabilities had been victims of significant abuse in the previous seven years, many of them on multiple occasions. These abuses included sexual assault, physical assault and financial exploitation. Although these allegations of abuse were substantiated and frequently rose to the level of a crime, only about 15% of these cases were investigated by the public safety system.
“Many of our vulnerable who live in care facilities never receive a visitor, making them especially susceptible to abuse, fraud or other crimes,” said Tomei. “This bill goes a long way to making sure vulnerable Oregonians are protected.”
The bill will standardize abuse investigations, increase collaboration between the Department of Human Services and local law enforcement agencies, and allow for immediate notification of all residents of a facility when a substantiated abuse has occurred. The bill will also preclude individuals with felony convictions and crimes against vulnerable people from being hired as direct care providers. For the first time in decades, fines and civil penalties for substantiated abuse will be increased and redirected into a fund to improve training of care providers.
“Today, a fine for egregious abuse can be as low as $50—less than the penalty for harming an animal or parking illegally. That is outrageous,” said Gelser. “This bill establishes a minimum civil penalty of $2500 for cases of substantiated abuse that involve rape, sexual assault, serious physical injury or result in the death of the victim.”
The bill was the result of a large interim working group that included self advocates, providers, law enforcement, the Department of Justice, the Department of Human Services, defense attorneys and others.
“Today is an important day for vulnerable Oregonians. By passing this bill, we affirm that we value the safety and dignity of every Oregonian, and that we will hold those who abuse adults with disabilities accountable in the civil and criminal justice system,” said Gelser. “As a result, vulnerable adults will be safer in their homes and their communities.”
House Democrats have made protecting seniors and our most vulnerable citizens from financial scams, fraud and sexual abuse by improved investigative processes, better court access and tougher penalties a top priority this session. HB 2442 is a cornerstone of that effort and is part of the House Democrats’ 2009 Roadmap for Oregon’s Future.
HB 2442 now moves to the Senate.