Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $375,000)
Empowered Aging (EA), a leading California-based Elder Justice organization with five decades of experience protecting seniors from abuse, seeks to transform Solano County's response to elder abuse. To do so, EA will strengthen its existing victim-focused Solano County Elder Abuse MDT (MDT) to address systemic barriers limiting identification and response to older adults who experience financial exploitation and other forms of abuse. Solano is home to ~73,000 seniors, the largest percentage of African-American and multi-racial people of all Bay Area counties, and 18% poverty in Vallejo, home to the majority of MDT cases. EA plans to expand the MDT’s membership to include diverse financial expertise to enhance the MDT’s ability to support victims in navigating and/or prosecuting financial abuse including Neuropsychology assessment, Forensic Accounting, Fiduciary Management, Real Estate and Cybercrime experts. EA will also increase MDT capacity by making the Program Coordinator (who supports the MDT’s existing Program Manager) into a full-time position and engaging two social worker interns. The MDT meets monthly for two-hour meetings with follow-up case meetings as needed and has a comprehensive referral, accountability and data tracking system for the 20-24 cases handled annually. To more effectively address financial elder abuse too often dismissed as a “family” or “civil” matter by police, EA will partner broadly to change the law enforcement and justice system landscape. The MDT will form a Law Enforcement subcommittee to conduct a needs assessment for systemic change, plan for educational presentations to each police precinct throughout the county with supportive collateral materials, and drive a plan for a pilot Elder Court as well as the development of an Elder Justice Bill of Rights. To support these efforts, the MDT will create a short video depicting from a first-person perspective the experience of a physically and cognitively impaired senior attempting to hold an abuser accountable in the legal system in order to increase awareness of shortcomings of the current systems. The MDT will hold semiannual half-day workshops to receive training and evaluate progress toward collaboratively established goals. Finally, the MDT will increase awareness of the need for elder justice by continuing its annual Elder Justice Forum event, presenting key issues to the Elder Justice League, 100 volunteers supporting seniors to identify and address abuse, and by creating a State of Elder Justice in Solano Annual Report documenting successes, challenges, lessons learned and best practices to be shared broadly with stakeholders.