MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill to establish a statewide registry for those people who have abused or taken advantage of the elderly was approved on a 101-0 vote in the Alabama House on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston, R- Mobile, along with several bipartisan cosponsors, would require the Alabama Department of Human Resources to create the Alabama Elder and Adult in Need of Protective Services Abuse Registry that will include the names of people convicted of various crimes against the elderly or “the individual has been found by the Alabama Department of Human Resources to have committed an act of abuse, elder abuse, emotional abuse, exploitation, financial exploitation, intimidation, neglect, sexual abuse, or undue influence against an elderly person or an adult in need of protective services.”
The bill would require healthcare providers to check the registry before hiring prospective employees. The registry would be similar to the existing Central Registry on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is used to protect children from individuals found to be responsible for child abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“We believe the registry will be a powerful tool that will enhance DHR’s ability, as well as the ability of other entities in protection and caregiving roles, to prevent known abusers from preying on additional victims,” Dominic Binkley, a spokesman for DHR, said recently. “A resource like this is especially important given the continued growth in the elderly population.”
A Senate version, Senate Bill 169 by Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill is personal to Rep. Gaston. “When all of our times come to be taken care of, as my (late wife) Jean’s did years ago, we want to make sure people are lucky like she was in getting the proper care they deserve,” Gaston said.
The House bill requires health care providers and caregivers to report suspected abuse by nursing home employees to DHR or local law enforcement. Failure to do so would be a Class C misdemeanor.
Alabama AARP requested that the registry be made available to more than 760,000 family caregivers in Alabama that rely on hired individuals for assistance. “AARP believes this bill is a strong step forward in the fight against elder abuse and exploitation,” Harding said. “This legislation would provide Alabama’s care providers with additional information to make informed decisions when hiring staff.
Attorney J.P. Sawyer, who represents individuals who have been abused and neglected in nursing homes, welcomes the bill “as it just makes common sense”. “Elderly individuals are just as helpless as children when it comes to abuse, and there is currently no mechanism to track the abusers or ensure that they are banned from providing care.” “This bill will fill in that gap”, Sawyer said.