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House approves bill to create elder abuse registry 

By HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill to  establish a statewide registry for those people who have abused or taken advantage of the elderly was approved on a 101-0 vote in the Alabama House on Wednesday.

House Bill 105, sponsored by Rep. Gaston, R- Mobile, along with several bipartisan cosponsors, would require the Alabama Department of Human Resources to create the Alabama Elder and Adult in Need of Protective Services Abuse Registry that will include the names of people convicted of various crimes against the elderly or “the individual has been found by the Alabama Department of Human Resources to have committed an act of abuse, elder  abuse, emotional abuse, exploitation, financial exploitation,  intimidation, neglect, sexual abuse, or undue influence against an elderly person or an adult in need of protective services.”

The bill also requires certain care providers to check the registry before hiring prospective employees.

The registry would be similar to the existing Central Registry on Child Abuse and Neglect, which is used to protect children from individuals found to be responsible for child abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“We believe the registry will be a powerful tool that will enhance DHR’s ability, as well as the ability of other entities in protection and caregiving roles, to prevent known abusers from preying on additional victims,” Dominic Binkley, a spokesman for DHR, said recently. “A resource like this is especially important given the continued growth in the elderly population.”

The HB105 has 23 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. A Senate version, Senate Bill 169 by Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, has 27 senate co-sponsors, likely securing its passage there. It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Gaston last week told the House Judiciary Committee about his personal attachment to this bill.

“When all of our times come to be taken care of, as my (late wife) Jean’s did years ago, we want to make sure people are lucky like she was in getting the proper care they deserve,” Gaston said.

Alabama AARP requested that home-care agencies also be required to utilize this directory, spokeswoman Jamie Harding said. It also requested that the registry be made available to more than 760,000 family caregivers in Alabama that rely on hired individuals for assistance.

“AARP believes this bill is a strong step forward in the fight against elder abuse and exploitation,” Harding said. “This legislation would provide Alabama’s care providers with additional information to make informed decisions when hiring staff. These tools will empower older adults and their family caregivers with additional information to help ensure high quality care.”

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