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September 13, 2001

For More Information, Contact:
Jamille Moens at (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that his bill to combat financial abuse and help prevent the financial destitution of elders won approval from both the State Assembly and State Senate, and now goes to the Governor for signature.

Assembly Bill 1111 establishes a program of Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Abuse in the Office of Criminal Justice Planning to provide grants for counties to establish Financial Abuse Specialist Teams (FAST) – groups of multidisciplinary personnel (which may include representatives from law enforcement, the public guardian, district attorney’s office, the medical profession, financial institutions, and social workers, etc.)  created to address financial abuse perpetrated against the elderly.

“The goal of this program is to prevent financial abuse – keeping seniors safe and financially independent,” said Simitian.  “FAST teams are trained to prevent the loss of, as well as recovery of assets, while looking after the well-being of our some of our most vulnerable residents.”

AB 1111 requires FAST teams to provide immediate intervention (within 24-48 hours) if financial abuse is suspected or present.  This latter provision is referred to as the “Rapid Response” component of FAST, and according to Simitian, it is “the critical component to a timely and meaningful response.  Criminals can do irreparable damage in only a few days.”  Without immediate intervention, complete exploitation may occur, making it difficult, if not impossible, to collect evidence, prosecute, and recover assets.

With the aging of the State’s population, coupled with higher demands for housing and skyrocketing real estate prices, California’s elderly are increasingly at risk of financial exploitation.  According to a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse (1996), between 60% and 90% of financial abuse perpetrators are family members or in-home caregivers, and only one in fourteen cases of financial abuse are reported to public agencies.

Further research has shown that elders who are victims of financial abuse have a mortality rate three times higher than others in their age who are not victims (Journal of the American Medical Association).

“With the explosion of the elderly population, elder financial abuse is becoming the crime of the 21st century,” said Betty Malks, Director of the Department of Aging and Adult Services for Santa Clara County.  “The FAST Rapid Response that Assemblyman Simitian is advocating is key to preventing financial destitution.”

Prior to serving in the Assembly, Simitian served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors where he worked to establish the County’s first Rapid Response FAST team.  “As a member of the Board’s Children and Families Committee,” said Simitian, “I saw first hand the damage that could be done – and the remarkable results our Rapid Response teams had in protecting seniors.  Expanding the program in other parts of the State just makes good sense.”

“Ensuring the health, safety and well-being of elders is the bottom line,” said Simitian.  “A partnership of folks from different agencies, acting quickly, is essential to preventing abuse and the possible displacement of seniors from their homes.”