Home » News » Protecting vulnerable adults

Protecting vulnerable adults

The Elder Justice Coalition said that educating financial institutions, healthcare entities, law enforcement,and the public is crucial to fighting elder abuse. UW-Green Bay photo

By Meghan Callahan

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – UW-Green Bay, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, was recently awarded a $327,957 grant to strengthen the Elder Justice Coalition in Wisconsin.

The grant was awarded to UW-Green Bay by Lifespan of Greater Rochester, which runs the National Center for State and Tribal Elder Justice Coalitions as part of funding they receive.

In a recent interview, Laura Nolan and Debra Leis — two key figures in the initiative to combat elder abuse — shared insights into their roles and the collaborative process behind securing a vital grant.

Nolan, the program manager and grant writer, described how the effort began.

“It was a very collaborative process, working with the Department of Justice and the Department of Health Services of Wisconsin,” she said.

The focus was on formalizing a coalition to tackle the growing issue of elder abuse and financial exploitation in the state.

Leis, hired as the program specialist, highlighted the urgency.

“Every year, the amount of elder abuse and financial exploitation is just skyrocketing in Wisconsin,” Leis said.

With the state’s older adult population increasing, the initiative aims to maximize existing resources to protect this vulnerable demographic.

One of the primary objectives of the grant is to build and strengthen a statewide coalition.

Nolan noted, “We have 41 members now and we’re in the process of getting community co-leaders so that we can strengthen from within the community.”

This effort is not just about immediate intervention but creating a sustainable, long-term resource for Wisconsin.

A significant milestone achieved by the coalition is the development of the Wisconsin Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) toolkit.

Nolan led a diverse committee to create this toolkit, which will soon be available on their website.

This resource aims to establish new FAST teams across the state, promoting consistency and better coordination in addressing financial exploitation cases.

One of the major challenges in combating elder abuse is the complex and often fragmented system of resources.

Nolan explained, “Wisconsin has 72 counties, which means we have 72 different systems that consumers have to interact with.”

The goal is to bring consistency across these systems to make it easier for older adults and their families to access help.

The coalition’s work also involves developing an Elder Death Review Team.

Nolan elaborated, “The team looks at death certificates to identify any trends of elder abuse that might have been missed.”

This multidisciplinary approach aims to uncover potential gaps in the system and address them proactively.

The fight against elder abuse faces several hurdles, primarily a lack of awareness.

Nolan pointed out, “A lot of people don’t know the ways they can help or how prevalent it is.”

Educating financial institutions, healthcare entities, law enforcement and the public is crucial. Leis emphasized the importance of collaboration, “By sharing resources, we help to fill in those gaps.”

Scams targeting older adults are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“There’s a new law that allows banks to freeze assets long enough to get help, but we’re hoping the law will require them to do so if they suspect fraud,” Nolan stated.

Education and training for bank staff and community members are essential to prevent such scams.

The coalition’s efforts are part of a broader national initiative.

Nolan shared her experience participating in the National Law Enforcement Elder Justice Summit in Washington, D.C., highlighting the federal efforts to combat international scams.

This approach, combining community building, education and proactive measures, aims to create a safer environment for Wisconsin’s older adults.

As Nolan put it, “We have accomplished a lot, but we have a lot to work on for the next year.”

The fight against elder abuse in Wisconsin is a collaborative, multi-faceted effort involving various stakeholders and community members.

Through education, resource development and coordinated action, Nolan, Leis and their coalition are making significant strides in protecting the state’s vulnerable older adults.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 26% of Wisconsin’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, an increase of more than 36% from 2012.

For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu/elder-justice-coalition.

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top