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DHS news release

October 21, 2004 Contact: Nadine Jelsing (503) 945-5950
Program Contact: Cindy Hannum (503) 945-5833


Governor Ted Kulongoski proclaims October 21 as Vulnerable Oregonians Justice Day

To raise awareness to the problem of abuse and neglect of vulnerable Oregonians, Governor Kulongoski has proclaimed October 21 as "Vulnerable Oregonians Justice Day."

The latest data from the Adult Protective Services section of the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) shows DHS investigated more than 10,000 reports of abuse, exploitation and/or neglect to elders and people with disabilities in 2003. Of these investigations, 6,110 were for citizens abused and neglected in their own homes.

"Abuse, exploitation and neglect impacts vulnerable adults of every race, socioeconomic level and living situation," says Governor Kulongoski. "Tragically, these cases often go unreported and unrecognized."

As the baby boomer generation ages, the problem is expected to worsen. In the year 2000, more than 438,000 Oregonians were 65 years and older. By 2025, the over-65 population is expected to double.

"It's imperative that both professionals and the general public understand the definition of abuse and neglect of vulnerable Oregonians," says Cindy Hannum, DHS administrator of the Office of Licensing and Quality of Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities. "It is much more than just physical abuse," she says.

According to DHS it is defined as the abuse and neglect of seniors, age 65 and older; and adults age 18 and older who have disabilities and cannot protect their own interests. Types of abuse include:

  • Physical harm or injury
  • Failure to provide basic care
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Financial exploitation
  • Verbal/mental abuse
  • Involuntary seclusion
  • Abandonment by the caregiver
  • Self-neglect that leads to harm
Abuse can occur any place a person lives, including a person's own home, homes of family or friends, nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and group homes. The abusers are often relatives including sons or daughters, as well as neighbors, friends, paid caregivers and scam artists.

To address the problem of abuse, Oregon has established Multi-disciplinary Teams throughout the state. Law enforcement, DHS personnel and other community members work together to better investigate and prosecute abuse, criminal neglect and financial exploitation. According to DHS there were 10,047 completed investigations in 2003.

In addition the Governor convened an Elder Abuse Task Force in February 2004 to analyze the status of elder laws in the state of Oregon, the system in place to protect elders, the role of law enforcement and sentencing guidelines. The Task Force will release their report next week.

To report abuse or suspected abuse call your local DHS Senior Services office, your local Disability Services office, your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA), or your local law enforcement agency.

You can also report abuse or neglect to the state office at 1-800-232-3020; TTY/voice 503-945-5811 or fax 503-378-8966. Calls can be anonymous and all are confidential.

For more information about abuse and neglect of vulnerable Oregonians log see the DHS Web site.