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AARP: Lawmakers Approve Senior-Abuse Protection Legislation

Press Release from the Tennessee Chapter of AARP, June, 3, 2010:

Effort to create a Cabinet-level Department on Aging fails

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers this year adopted legislation to protect seniors from abuse and scams, but stopped short of consolidating dozens of programs for the elderly scattered across 23 state departments and agencies.

As the 2010 legislative session wound toward a close, lawmakers unanimously approved a bill seeking to protect seniors and others from abuse by health care providers. The Senate sent the governor the Elderly and Disabled Adults Protection Act (SB2297/HB2284) on a 27-0 vote on Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kyle and Rep. Dennis Ferguson, requires licensed health care professionals and health care facilities to conduct a registry check on national and state adult abuse and sexual offender registries before hiring a person who provides direct patient care.

While the measure was not as expansive as the bill initially sought by the administration in 2009, AARP supported it as an additional means of providing a safe environment for seniors in nursing homes and other facilities. “Protection of our most vulnerable adults must be a priority,” AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard said. “This bill provides an extra degree of protection for those who cannot defend themselves.”

Lawmakers voted to protect consumers in a wide variety of ways in 2010, including bills to prevent unwanted phone solicitations and following national models for guardianship and conservatorship laws.

A bill sought by several senior and disability groups that would create a Department of Aging, however, stalled in the Senate Government Operations Committee. The bill followed the recommendations of an administration study as the first step toward consolidating programs for seniors. The legislation had the support of the Bredesen administration, senior groups including AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association, and disability groups including the Tennessee Disability Coalition. Senators stopped the bill saying they were awaiting the report of a joint study committee.

Other bills adopted by the legislature affecting seniors include:

SB 444/HB 608 by Rep. Mike Stewart and Sen. Doug Overbey to incorporate provisions of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act in Tennessee law. The legislation makes clear the intent for the uniform law to serve as a supplement to the provisions of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act to provide a basis for determining jurisdiction between this state and other states or foreign countries in any cases involving the protection of an adult by the courts of different states or countries. This bill’s effective date is January 1, 2011, and is applicable to proceedings that begin on or after January 1, 2011.

SB 2501/HB 2503 by Rep. Gary Moore and Sen. Joe Haynes which creates an offense for a person to conceal or misrepresent a telephone number. Violations are punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $2,500 for each violation.

SB 2832/HB 2778 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Andy Berke to allow family members intervention when an adult is abused or neglected. Establishes that family members may obtain court orders to intervene when a relative adult is being intentionally abused, neglected, or exploited. The legislation creates a process for a relative to petition the court for an order of protection, for a period of time not to exceed 120 days, for an adult who is unable to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, exploitation, or misappropriation of real or personal property. It is a Class A misdemeanor for an individual to violate the newly created order of protection.

SB 2903/HB 2941 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Randy McNally to create a missing senior citizen alert program for persons with dementia or physical impairment. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to verify a person is missing, enter the information in to the National Crime Information Center, identify and maintain additional local resources that can be utilized, such as reserve units and K-9 units, and requires law enforcement to send alerts to designated media at their discretion.

SB 2570/HB 3265 by Rep. Phillip Johnson and Sen. Mike Faulk to allow online driver safety course for seniors to qualify for insurance premium discounts subject to the approval of the Department of Safety.

SB 3528/HB 3310 by Sen. Doug Overbey and Rep. Joe Armstrong provides funds through a hospital coverage fee to offset TennCare cuts that would affect seniors. The legislation was supported by AARP because of the impact of the proposed cuts on Tennessee hospitals and rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy services.

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