Elder Abuse Interventions & Enhanced Multidisciplinary Initiative in New York

elder abuse

Our state is stronger when every Coloradan has the opportunity to contribute his/her skills, knowledge, and talents to their community. To make this happen, we must ensure all Coloradans are physically, financially, and emotionally secure. Unfortunately, we know between 7 percent and 10 percent of Americans aged 60 and older experience some form of abuse. In Colorado, 25 percent of elder abuse cases involved financial exploitation, amounting to approximately $22.2 million in lost money and property.

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To support our collective financial security, Colorado can learn from an innovative and collaborative program being implemented in New York to address elder abuse.

New York’s Innovative Approach

To combat elder financial abuse, New York employs Enhanced MultiDisciplinary Teams (E-MDTs). These teams consist of a diverse group of professionals who collaboratively review and address financial abuse cases. Though other states, including Colorado, use some form of interdisciplinary team, New York’s program is unique in that they:

  • Employ a full-time coordinator to facilitate E-MDT meetings
  • Utilize an expansive team which includes specialists not typically found in other states, including forensic accountants, geriatric psychiatrists, and community legal services

These enhancements are important because they increase collaboration and enable the team to address abuse and locate gaps in services. E-MDTs are run through the Department of Aging with the help of grants from the Office of Victim Services. Consultation services are free to victims of financial abuse who are over the age of 60.

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Results from a pilot E-MDT program in the Finger Lakes region of New York showed these teams’ efforts led to over $500,000 in ordered financial repayment. This program was found to be successful enough that New York is allocating over $8 million in federal and state monies to expand it to the entire state by 2021.

Implementation in Colorado

Colorado currently uses multidisciplinary teams to address all different types of abuses. Adult Protective Services can conduct joint investigations, which can involve law enforcement, the district attorney, Medicaid fraud investigators, ombudsmen, and other applicable agencies. However, it’s often difficult to coordinate these efforts, and involved organizations often have little in-depth expertise with elder issues. E-MDTs could address this problem by providing a coordinated group of individuals across sectors that are knowledgeable and readily available to address elder fraud cases.

To introduce E-MDTs to Colorado, it would be wise to follow New York’s lead and start a small pilot somewhere with a high density of financial exploitation. As in New York, the pilot could be run through existing state-run efforts like Adult Protective Services or the State Unit on Aging. Once funded, local leaders should choose expert professionals to comprise the E-MDT. From there, the agency may also choose an outside organization to monitor progress and effectiveness.

Pueblo County could be a good location to pilot an E-MDT program. According to the Colorado Health Institute’s aging vulnerability index, the county has a relatively high rating of 7.5 to 7.8, which indicates a higher than average number of older adults live in poverty, alone, or have cognitive/physical challenges. As the research shows us, cognitive and physical limitations can put a person at higher risk of mistreatment and neglect. With its own Adult Protective Services program, services could be housed internally within the community. Though state funding would be needed, federal grant opportunities may also be available.

We lose a huge piece of what makes our communities diverse and fulfilling when any member loses the ability to fully contribute in a way they find meaningful. At the Bell, we recognize this and have dedicated ourselves to ensuring people across Colorado have financial security and are empowered to make financial decisions that are right for them. By adopting meaningful and proven programs, like E-MDTs, we’ll be taking steps to protect people’s financial security and allow for the further enrichment of our communities.