SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed four new laws to protect Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities from exploitation, abuse and neglect. The new laws require timely reporting of abuse and neglect when discovered, and give authorities more tools and power to investigate allegations of exploitation, abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities.
“These new laws tell those who prey on the elderly and those with disabilities that they will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Strengthening the state’s investigative powers is necessary to give our seniors and disabled the peace of mind and security they deserve.”
Senate Bill 3010, sponsored by Sen. John Cullerton (D – Chicago) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D – Chicago), requires reports of abuse and neglect allegations to be made to the Illinois Department of Human Services Office of the Inspector General hotline within 4 hours of the discovery of the suspected abuse or neglect. The OIG then investigates these allegations.
The bill requires all individuals employed or contracted by state-operated facilities or community agencies that provide mental health or developmental disabilities services to report alleged incidents.
“This law reinforces the importance of reporting abuse and neglect,” said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. “It strengthens current law and establishes consequences for individuals who disregard their obligation to report.”
“Residents of these facilities deserve the best care possible,” Sen. Cullerton said. “This new law will help ensure that every case of abuse and neglect is reported in a timely, efficient manner.”
It also provides that any “required reporter” who willfully fails to report alleged abuse or neglect or who reports the alleged incident late is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Current law does not include any penalty for failing to report or for submitting a late report.
The law will also create consistency among state agencies regarding reporting requirements and sanctions for late and non-reporting.
The other three pieces of legislation signed by the Governor today are:
· Senate Bill 2782, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Halvorson (D – Crete) and Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R – Glenview), authorizes the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to receive copies of DHS OIG investigative reports of alleged abuse and neglect of residents of mental health and developmental disabilities centers.
The new laws are all effective immediately.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich has signed several pieces of legislation preventing abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities, protecting seniors from elder abuse and increasing public awareness. Through legislative action, the Governor has:
· Created a 24 hour Elder Abuse Hotline where seniors and their loved ones can report elder abuse or exploitation and quickly get help
· Created the Missing & Endangered Senior Alert System
· Trained volunteers to assist the state in its efforts to increase awareness of elder abuse and available programs and services provided by the state for victims.
· Encouraged banking institutions to help in the state’s campaign to prevent financial exploitation.
· Prohibited a person who has been convicted of financial exploitation, abuse or neglect from receiving any inheritance from the senior he/she abused.
· Increased criminal charges and penalties for battering a person age 60 or better.
Lifted rules that prohibited banking institutions from providing information to certain entities if there is suspicion that a customer is or may become the victim of financial exploitation.