Cutler Institute colleagues, Elisabeth Snell, Senior Policy Associate in the Justice Policy program area, and Kimberly Snow, Research Associate in the Population Health and Health Policy/Disability and Aging program area, joined forces to support the work of the Governor Janet Mills’ Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership (EJCP) and develop the Maine Elder Justice Roadmap, released by the Governor’s Office on February 4, 2022.
The EJCP was convened by Governor Mills through Executive Order #11 FY19/20 with representatives from the public and private sectors. Over the course of eighteen months, EJCP members took part in facilitated discussions centered around identifying challenges to the prevention of, detection of, and response to elder abuse in Maine and developing strategic recommendations to address those challenges.
Supported by funding from the John T. Gorman Foundation through Legal Services for the Elderly, Snell and Snow co-led a research team and used their respective backgrounds in justice policy/domestic violence and elder abuse/long-term care policy to field an initial survey of the EJCP members and other stakeholders that helped EJCP prioritize the strengths, gaps, challenges, and best practices in four specific areas: direct victim services; public and professional education; public policy; and data collection and evaluation. The Cutler Institute team reported the survey results to the EJCP during public meetings held throughout 2021, and these reports served as the basis of small-group work by EJCP members to develop recommendations to address challenges in the four areas.
As the EJCP members discussed and debated the relative merits of each recommendation, the Cutler Institute team created the framework for the Roadmap, including a primer on elder abuse in Maine for legislators and other stakeholders who might not be familiar with the issue. For example, one in ten older adults experiences abuse, neglect, or exploitation, but most cases are never reported to authorities. Older adults may be reluctant to report abuse out of shame or fear: of the perpetrator; of getting family members, especially adult children, into trouble; of losing a caregiver, even if they are the abuser; or of losing autonomy.
Because elder abuse is so underreported, it has been challenging to prevent, detect, and respond effectively. The Governor’s Office described the Roadmap as a “historic” report, and Governor Mills said, “The abuse of vulnerable people, especially our older citizens, is an insidious crime that has no place in Maine…I look forward to reviewing these recommendations and advancing our efforts to combat elder abuse.” Snell and Snow are excited to see their team’s hard work contribute to real change that creates and sustains a culture of respect, safety, choice, and justice for all Mainers.