New legislation passed to protect Alaska’s vulnerable adults
Alaska lawmakers passed legislation to better protect Alaska’s vulnerable adults in the 2012 session. Now, protective agencies such as Adult Protective Services and the Office of Elder Fraud and Assistance have two new tools to staunch the flow of money being siphoned from a vulnerable adult’s account:
- A court may appoint a temporary conservator on an emergency basis for a vulnerable adult after receiving a petition from an advocate of the adult alleging exploitation of his or her funds, assets and/or property.
- Vulnerable adults or their legal representatives can request a 20-day protective order to stop a perpetrator from accessing monies or assets of the vulnerable adult. Anyone can apply to the court on behalf of the vulnerable adult to receive this emergency financial protection.
Reasons for the legislation:
- Alaska has the fastest-growing senior population in the nation, and Adult Protective Services is getting an increasing number of reports of harm and financial exploitation.
- Financial fraud is one of the top complaints. Cases have increased in frequency and complexity, and legal tools hadn’t kept pace with new technology that can quickly drain a bank account. Stolen money is very difficult to track and recover and prevention is critical in stopping a perpetrator.
The legislation also requires more professionals to report concerns of harm, and expands the definition of harm.
- New reporter categories are:
- employees of nursing homes and other health care facilities;
- educators and administrative staff of educational institutions
- “Undue influence” is now a reportable harm.
- Undue influence is when a person trusted by a vulnerable adult uses his or her influence to exploit the vulnerable adult to get control of decision-making about the vulnerable adult’s finances, property, health care or residence.
The legislation was a collaboration between DHSS’s Adult Protective Services and the Department of Administration’s Office of Elder Fraud unit. It protects vulnerable adults of all ages, including young and middle-aged adults who experience intellectual or physical disabilities, as well as older Alaskans. Alaskans who are emotionally disabled by years of domestic violence would also qualify, if they are physically able to act to protect themselves, but don’t have the emotional health to take the steps.
To see the bill, visit www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=SB0086Z&session=27. You can also contact Adult Protective Services, 800-478-9996, or the Office of Elder Fraud and Assistance, 907-334-5932, for more information.