A proposal to strengthen Kansas’ laws against elder abuse is expected to come before lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session.
Current state law prohibits financial abuse against older people but not physical abuse. The proposed legislation would expand the definition of criminal mistreatment to include physical injury, unreasonable confinement or unreasonable punishment.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says this is an effort to update existing laws.
"While [physical abuse and unreasonable confinement] is not an epidemic by any means, when that case happens, you’re sure going to wish we had a statute that would attend to that directly," Bennett says.
He says the proposal would also include changes to the guardian or conservator laws to help prevent financial crimes against the elderly or dependent people.
Bennett is joining with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe in submitting the proposal to lawmakers.
"We’re not creating out of whole cloth a new bill here," Bennett says. "This is an existing bill, but it’s one that just needed to be updated to make sure a couple of things that were not included before are now included and give it, frankly, a little more teeth."
The U.S. Census Bureau says nearly 400,000 people who are 65 years and older live in Kansas. A Wichita State University study projects that population to more than double over the next 50 years.
“As the population of senior citizens in Kansas continues to increase, we need to update our laws,” Schmidt said in a news release. “It is important that our prosecutors have tools available to them to successfully prosecute those who take advantage of or abuse Kansas seniors.”
Schmidt is currently serving as president of the National Association of Attorneys General. During his presidency, the organization is focusing on helping states gather expertise and build the capacity to fight elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Schmidt will host a national summit on the issue in Manhattan in April.
Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.
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