April 22, 2018
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Hampden training session to help prevent elder abuse

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — The Elder Justice Training Partnership will conduct an intensive two-day session Tuesday and Wednesday for law enforcement officials and other professionals.

The session at the Municipal Building on Western Avenue in Hampden is one of six being held around Maine to teach police to investigate reports of elder abuse so the perpetrators can be prosecuted successfully.

Similar trainings have been held in Portland, Topsham, Presque Isle and Wells. A session is scheduled to be held in Augusta next year.

Candice Heisler, a national expert on the subject and former California prosecutor, told Maine prosecutors last month that elder abuse can include criminal behavior such as physical, domestic, emotional and sexual abuse.

Financial exploitation and neglect of people over the age of 60 also can be defined as elder abuse.

In the first year of the training program, nearly 300 professionals including police officers, prosecutors, judges, advocates, emergency medical service personnel and 911 dispatchers, have been trained in Maine.

Anecdotal reports from law enforcement and adult protective services suggest that in the past year reports to Adult Protective Services have increased, according to project coordinator Sharon Herrick. This demonstrates the increased awareness of elder abuse among both the professional community and the public at large.

“Maine is the oldest state in country, with more than a quarter of households having at least one person over the age of 65. We know that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg with our current caseload,” said Evert Fowle, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties and a member of the training team.

“This project,” he said, “has had an enormous impact on how we view elder abuse cases. [Elder Justice Training Partnership] combines quality training, builds statewide relationship across disciplines and overall helps us to protect victims and hold offenders accountable.”

The partners in the project include the state Attorney General’s Office, the Maine Prosecutors’ Association, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine.

The program is led by Volunteers of America Northern New England and funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women.

For information, call Sharon Herrick, project coordinator, at 233-3685 or sharon.herrick@voane.org.

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