DHS news release
Oct. 18, 2006
Media contact: Tom Towslee 503-947-5207, cell 503-559-0652
Program contact: Marc Overbeck 503-945-6406
Oregonians honored as Everyday Heroes for helping victims of elder abuse
Seven Oregonians and one financial institution were honored today as "Everyday Heroes" for their unselfishness in coming to the aid of victims of elder financial and physical abuse and neglect.
The event coincided with a proclamation by Governor Ted Kulongoski declaring Oct. 18, 2006, "Everyday Heroes Working to End Elder Abuse Day." The proclamation states that "All residents of the State of Oregon deserve to live with dignity, respect and security."
The winners were honored at an Everyday Heroes Recognition Luncheon in Keizer. The individuals honored are Janice McKee of Portland, Leroy Stratton of Boring, Katie Martinez of Beaverton, Sheri Adams of Hillsboro, Senior Deputy District Attorney Bob Hull of Washington County, Roger Steinke of Canby, and Teri Jansen of Grants Pass. The financial institution is PremierWest Bank of Medford.
Financial and physical abuse of the elderly is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Reports of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation increased 19.6 percent from 2000 to 2004 with nearly half of those reports being substantiated. While some studies estimate that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the elderly population have been abused, the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million victims every year.
The Governor's Commission on Senior Services created the "Everyday Heroes" campaign in an effort to raise awareness of elder abuse, increase reporting, reduce tolerance of elder abuse and find ways of connecting individuals and families with community resources.
"It has been only in recent decades that abuse of elderly and disabled adults has been widely recognized," said Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, who presented the awards. "Some studies say elder abuse may be as common as child abuse. And now enter the 'Baby Boomers,' a huge group of older Americans just beginning to retire and who will be in need of additional assistance to remain safe."
Myers said that less than one cent of every federal dollar spent on victim abuse goes to help the elderly even though older adults make up approximately 17 percent of the population in America.
"The Oregonians we are honoring today noticed something that was consistent with elder abuse, they did something about it and their actions kept someone safe or minimized the harm that was being done," Myers said. "They have set an example for all of us of what needs to be done to keep Oregon seniors safe in their communities."
"We appreciate the efforts of every individual who makes a difference in the life of a senior citizen, but we also want to recognize the efforts of a few who have allowed us to share their stories," said John Helm, chair of the Governor's Commission on Senior Services, which sponsors the Everyday Heroes campaign.
Everyday Heroes honorees:
Janice McKee, Portland
During a conversation with her 84-year-old aunt, Ms. McKee learned that a man named Troy Gallagher had come to her aunt's door and offered plumbing services. Her aunt hired Gallagher to do work on several areas of the house, paying him almost $7,000. Ms. McKee inspected the work and found that none of the promised worked had been done. Ms. McKee contacted the Portland Police Bureau. An investigation resulted in the arrest and successful prosecution of Troy Gallagher, who is now serving a 52-month prison sentence.
Leroy Stratton, Boring
Mr. Stratton's 82-year-old mother was another victim of Troy Gallagher. She lives by herself and had her yard cared for one man. One day, that man and Troy Gallagher showed up at her house and convinced her that they could fix her house up for her. She ended up paying them $4,300 for repairs to her home. When Mr. Stratton learned about the repairs, he inspected the areas they claimed to have fixed and found no evidence that any work had been done. He then hired a professional plumber to inspect the work. That plumber found no evidence of work having been done. Mr. Stratton contacted the police and the Better Business Bureau. The case of Mr. Stratton's mother was included in the successful prosecution of Gallagher by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office.
Katie Martinez, Hillsboro
Ms. Martinez, who works at a group home for adults with mental disabilities, became suspicious when the home's manager, who typically didn't shop for the group home residents, began buying items of clothing for them. Ms. Martinez conducted an inventory of the purchased items and found that some clothing items on the receipts were not in the bag. She reported the suspected financial abuse to authorities. A subsequent investigation found that the manager had stolen more than $1,000 in cash in addition to using several hundred dollars worth of resident's money to purchase clothing items for her personal use. The manager was eventually convicted of multiple counts of theft, sentenced to community service and probation and dismissed from her job.
Cheri Adams, Hillsboro
Ms. Adams and her family provided assistance and kept an eye on their recently widowed 87-year-old neighbor. When Ms. Adams checked on her elderly friend as she did most mornings, she found her sitting in a living room chair clutching herself. When the neighbor stated she had been sexually assaulted the previous night, Ms. Adams called the police to report the incident. The attacker was later arrested and charged. Ms. Adams and her family continue to provide understanding and support to their neighbor. Since the incident, neighbors have united and been vigilant in their effort to keep every resident on their block safe.
Bob Hull, Senior Deputy District Attorney for Criminal Prosecution, Washington County District Attorney's Office
As the lead district attorney for elder abuse cases in Washington County, Bob Hull oversees four other attorneys specializing in elder abuse crimes. Over the last three years Mr. Hull and his team have successfully prosecuted 80 elder abuse cases in Washington County. Mr. Hull also serves on the steering committee for the elder abuse interagency multi-disciplinary team.
Roger Steinke, Canby
Mr. Steinke has worked for Portland General Electric for 28 years and is a foreman of service inspection. His duties include collecting overdue payments and, when necessary, disconnecting service. After visiting an elderly woman's residence to discuss an outstanding utility bill, he became concerned about the woman's safety, the condition of her home, and her ability to care for herself. Rather than terminate service, Mr. Steinke and PGE contacted the Oregon Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services, which made arrangements to have the woman's apartment cleaned, provide on-going housekeeping and bill-paying assistance.
Teri Jansen, new accounts representative, Evergreen Federal Bank, Grants Pass
Ms. Jansen is a long-time advocate of establishing links between human service providers in her community so seniors have access to fair and unbiased checkbook services. She took that commitment a step further by initiating a partnership with local RSVP and AARP offices. She also helped host a one-day fraud prevention, financial education and senior services fair and continues to keep Evergreen Bank in the forefront of community spirit and volunteerism.
PremierWest Bank, Medford
PremierWest Bank is using staff training programs and cultural awareness to demonstrate its commitment to protecting its senior customers and preventing and reporting suspected elder financial abuse. One of many examples involves a bank customer who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is no longer aware of her financial situation. When the customer's account began showing up on the bank's overdraft report, a concerned bank employee felt something was wrong and looked into the situation. The bank contacted Senior Services and the Medford Police Department with their suspicions of elder financial abuse. An investigation determined that checks were being written in the account by the customer's daughter, who had both gambling and alcohol abuse problems. Eventually a restraining order was issued against the daughter and other family members stepped in to become custodians of the account. PremierWest Bank reversed the overdraft fees on the mother's account.
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