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Friday, 23 December 2016 13:23

DA Forms Special Team to Investigate Elder Abuse

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MEMPHIS – A special investigative team has formally been formed to address issues of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said Friday.
    The Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT) will include representatives from the DA’s Office, local law enforcement, the Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services section and the multi-agency Coordinated Response to Elder Abuse (CREA). 
    Gen. Weirich has been meeting for the past two years with representatives from agencies that will be part of Shelby County’s VAPIT, with grant support from the Plough Foundation. She said legislation passed this year requiring all DAs across the state to establish a VAPIT in their districts becomes effective Jan. 1.
    “This new legislation will codify what we already have been doing,” said Gen. Weirich. “Elder abuse is probably one of the least-discussed problems in our society, yet sadly it has been on the rise in recent years. Vulnerable adults need and deserve all the care and protection we can give them, whether we are family, friends or prosecutors.
    “We are so grateful to the Plough Foundation and to CREA for their valuable support and efforts to make life better for our vulnerable – and valuable – adults.” 
    Several local prosecutors recently attended a three-day seminar of the Elder Abuse Committee of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference on the investigation, prosecution and prevention of elder abuse.
    Asst. Dist. Atty. Carrie Shelton will head the VAPIT in Shelby County. She is the former chief prosecutor of the DA’s Special Victims Unit formed several years ago which prosecutes cases involving abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults, as well as cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of child victims; rape and aggravated rape of adult victims.
   National studies suggest that less than 10 percent of elder abuse cases ever come to the attention of appropriate authorities. In 2014, Tennessee investigated 9,644 reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults, with financial exploitation of elders a significant problem.
    Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state that requires anyone who sees abuse or suspected abuse to notify authorities by calling 911 in an emergency or Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366 or online at https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/.
    Members of the public also may visit Tennessee Department of Health's Abuse Registry.