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New Legislation Aimed at Preventing Abuse and Human Trafficking of Seniors

web posted February 18, 2014

COLUMBIA – Legislation will be introduced this week in the State Senate that proposes the creation of the "Senior Trafficking and Exploitation Reform of 2014" in South Carolina.  On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, at 11:00 a.m., Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell and Senator Thomas Alexander, Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging, will hold a press conference in the Lower Lobby of the State House to discuss specifics of the proposed legislation.

The Senior Trafficking and Exploitation Reform of 2014 seeks to deter persons who have previously manipulated the system by closing existing loopholes, increasing penalties for those who knowingly and intentionally cause harm, and by addressing new forms of abuse and exploitation that were not recognized or defined by previous law.  The 1993 Omnibus Adult Protection Act did not protect all seniors and limited their protections.  This legislation is a proactive approach to preparing South Carolina for a large influx of older adults, who are becoming increasingly vulnerable to new forms of clever schemes and creative tactics by scammers and predators alike.

"There have been cases reported, for instance, where unscrupulous predators trolled emergency rooms looking for elderly persons without any stable home environment to return to after being discharged from the hospital," said South Carolina's chief advocate for seniors, Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell.  "These predators will promise a place to live and care in exchange for the elderly person’s monthly income, but in reality, this elderly person may receive sub-standard care while their money has now been handed over to a potential criminal."

While the Senior Trafficking and Exploitation Reform of 2014 legislation maintains many of the effective policies contained in the Omnibus Adult Protection Act, the proposed bill's language draws from legislation passed in other states, such as Florida and Alabama, in an effort to strengthen our own state laws and expand the protections afforded to all persons age 60 and older from the perils of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and human trafficking.  The act also ensures fairness by protecting certain innocent parties intending goodwill.

"While we don't want to discourage Good Samaritans from extending a helping hand to these vulnerable adults, we want to send a clear message - South Carolina will not tolerate those of who intentionally set out to exploit or abuse seniors or adults with disabilities," added Lieutenant Governor McConnell.  "We recognize the importance and urgency of toughening our state's existing laws, and that's precisely what this legislation strives to accomplish."

South Carolina is currently home to over 900,000 seniors, and that number is expected to double over the next 15 years.  A publication by AARP estimates between one and two million older Americans are abused nationally each year, but research suggests that only one out of every 14 elder abuse cases is reported.

"From financial exploitation to human trafficking to children taking advantage of their parent's well-being and livelihood, we're going to continue to see more and more unfortunate situations occur if safeguards are not put into place now," summarized Senator Thomas Alexander, sponsor of the legislation.

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