Abuse measure’s mandate helps protect the elderly, at-risk people

Law part of initiative to protect Colorado’s vulnerable populations

Residents and administrators at Four Corners Health Care Center and their guests Tuesday marked the passage of Senate Bill 78, which requires reporting the abuse of the elderly and at-risk adults.

The bill was signed May 29 by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Under the legislation, a report of abuse would trigger an investigation, which would be subject to normal law-enforcement protocol.

A task force of state department heads is scheduled to establish final implementation procedures by January 2013.

A peer-group committee at Four Corners started work a year ago on a See It. Stop It. campaign. It was the sixth focus group organized under the Violence Prevention Coalition of Southwest Colorado.

“Abuse isn’t a comfortable topic for many people to talk about,” Four Corners administrator Ian Chartier said. “We have to bring awareness to it to prevent. No one should be afraid to speak about it.”

Pam Willhoite, coordinator of See It. Stop It., said the Four Corners peer leaders talked to anyone who would listen about stopping abuse.

They pursued state Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, relentlessly to get his vote on the House side of the Legislature.

The effort to get a bill on five earlier occasions went nowhere, Willhoite said.

Brown was given a plaque of commendation at the gathering. State Sen. Ellen Roberts, who was equally honored, was not able to attend.

Peer-group leaders, including Bruce Anderson, a broadcasting engineer who is convalescing from a stroke at Four Corners, were recognized. Anderson is well known for his participation in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the FFA and school board.

Willhoite said another See It. Stop It. focus group is being organized at Manna Soup Kitchen to address abuse in the homeless community.

The Violence Prevention Coalition launched a campaign in 2009 to address abuse among former inmates, Native Americans, people with disabilities and caregivers, Willhoite said.

daler@durangoherald.com

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