In many societies, the elder population is respected and revered. Our elders are depended on to offer not only advice and wisdom, but leadership and courage. We cannot sit idly by while people are preying on the elderly. It is not right to take advantage of people who lived their entire lives carefully managing and maintaining themselves, their money, their property, and general wellbeing, just to be exploited in their golden years. Oftentimes, these people are exploited by individuals they know and trust the most. This abuse is a travesty and I’m certain I do not speak only for myself when I say that it simply cannot continue.
In response to this growing epidemic, I have sponsored Senate Bill 134, which seeks to “Revise elder abuse laws.” The bill passed the third reading in the Senate on a vote of 50-0. The bill will protect older people and those with developmental disabilities in cases involving money, assets, or property. It further protects these individuals from abuse including “the infliction of physical or mental injury” and the “deprivation of food, shelter, clothing, or services necessary to maintain the physical or mental health of an older person or a person with a developmental disability without lawful authority.”
With SB 134, the elderly will have protection over the injustices that have begun to run rampant in Montana. While it is a fairly simple piece of legislation, it is absolutely imperative to protect the people that have worked so hard and given so much to communities. With the support of Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito and other county attorneys representing both urban and rural communities, this bill has become a reality. It is my hope that the various components of this bill offer a strong and well-defined first step as we begin to tackle this issue.
I’m proud to be able to say that I was a part of this imperative step towards solving a problem that has affected so many people. I am confident and optimistic that the passage of SB134 will help to greatly improve lives throughout Montana. As a state, we must recognize when our citizens are not being cared for properly. I thank the many other senators who supported this bill from its inception, and for the crucial role that they played in making a difference in countless citizens’ lives.