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San Diego County Ramps Up Effort To Protect Seniors

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San Diego County Ramps Up Effort To Protect Seniors
San Diego County Ramps Up Effort To Protect Seniors
San Diego County Ramps Up Effort To Protect Seniors GUEST:Paul Greenwood, deputy district attorney, San Diego County

OUR TOP STORIES ON MIDDAY EDITION, OF THE CRACK DOWN ELDERLY ABUSE ON SAN DIEGO WITH AN ABUSE REPORTING LINE. COUNTY OFFICIALS INTRODUCED THE NEW HOTLINE WHICH ALLOWS THE PUBLIC TO REPORT CASES AT THE FILL TILL. SAN DIEGO COUNTY LAUNCHED A PILOT PROGRAM LAST YEAR AIMED AT EXPANDING OVER SITE OF EX EXISTING LIVING FACILITIES. DIANE TALKS ABOUT THE CASE ON MONDAY. WHERE YOU HAVE THE CARE APPROACHED, WE ALSO NEED IT TO STICK TO SEND THAT MESSAGE, EITHER SHAPE UP OR WE ARE GOING TO SHUT YOU DOWN. JOINING ME IS PAUL GREEN WOOD, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, AHEAD OF THE ELDERLY ABUSE PROSECUTION UNIT, AT THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM THANK YOU, GOOD AFTERNOON MARLENE. GIVE US A LITTLE BACKGROUND IF YOU COULD OF AGAINST ELDERLY LIVING. IT STARTED IN SACRAMENTO. AS TO WHAT THEY BELIEVE TO BE INADEQUATE SI OF HOW THE STATE INSPECTED AND DID OVER SITE OF ALL THE ASSISTANT LIVING FACILITIES IN OUR COUNTY. REFERENCE SOME SUSPICIOUS DEATHS THAT NEVER BEEN INVESTIGATED AND REFERENCED OTHER THINGS SUCH AS THE FACT OF THE MAXIMUM FINE THAT THE COMMUNITY IMPOSE WAS $150. THAT CAME TO THE ATTENTION OF DIANA JACOB, SHE CALLED ME IN THE OFFICE LATE SEPTEMBER. WE FIGURED OUT THAT IT WAS NO SURPRISE OF WHAT THE NEWS REPORTED. I HAVE SEEN FEW CASES COMING INTO MY OFFICE. AND SO IT WAS AGREED THAT WE NEED TO PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON THIS AREA AS A RESOURCE AND OFFICE. THAT'S HOW IT CAME ABOUT. LAST MARCH, MY BOSS WENT BEFORE THE BOARD AND THE BOARD ALLOCATED A SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF MONEY SO WE CAN CREATE A SUB UNIT AND IT IS STAFFED BY EIGHT FULL-TIME MEMBERS. SINCE THE PILOT PROGRAM BEGAN, HAVE THE NUMBER OF INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTION INCREASED? THE NUMBER OF INVESTIGATION HAVE CLEARLY INCREASED. WHAT I HAVE SPENT THE LAST SEVEN OR APTH MONTHS DOING IS BUILDING THE BRIDGES FOR IT TO COME THROUGH. OUR OFFICE IS FIRST UP FOR ANY REPORTS COMING TO BE FURTHER INVESTIGATED. THE OTHER MONTHS IT IS DONE BY THE STATE'S ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE. WE HAD OPENED UP 113 CASES. IN THAT TIME PERIOD, WE ONLY ISSUED FIVE FELONY CASES AND MANY OF THEM PROVED UNSUBSTANTIATED. I AM NOT SO CONCERNED OF THE NUMBERS. I AM CONCERNED AND PLEASED THAT WE HAVE A PRESENCE NOW IN THE FACILITY. I MAY GET TO INVESTIGATE WITH A BADGE AND A GUN TO GO OUT ON A FOLLOW TO SOME OF THESE FACILITIES AND YOU CAN IMAGINE OF THE EFFECT OF HAVING A SWORN PEACE OFFICER COMING THE FACILITY UNANNOUNCED. IT REALLY DOES HAVE A GREAT IMPACT. GIVER US THE IDEA OF THE TYPE OF ABUSE COMPLAINTS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN REPORTED SO FAR. A LARGE AMOUNT, SURPRISINGLY TO ME WAS RESIDENT ON RESIDENT WHERE YOU HAVE COMPLAINTS BY A RESIDENT THAT A FELLOW RESIDENT IN THE SAME FACILITY HAS BEEN HITTING THEM OR SLAPPING THEM OR VERBALLY ABUSING THEM OR CONCERNS ABOUT THAT. AND THAT KIND OF TOOK ME BACK. AS YOU CAN IMAGINE MANY OF THOSE COMPLAINTS DON'T RISE TO THE LEVEL OF CRIMINAL BECAUSE YOU HAVE GOT THESE SUSPECTS, IT IS ACTUALLY MAYBE AN 89-YEAR-OLD PERSON WITH STAGES O F ALZHEIMER'S. WHAT I AM INTERESTED IN IS NEGLECT BY THE FACILITY AND FAILING TO PROVIDE GOOD CONDITIONS FOR HEAT AND LIGHTING AND FOOD AND PHYSICAL ASSAULTS OR SEXUAL ABUSE. IF THERE IS PATIENT ON PATIENT VIOLENCE, IS IT ALSO UP TO THE FACILITY TO MONITOR THAT AND STOP IT? SEE, THAT'S A GOOD POINT, TOO. THE SECONDARY LEVEL OV INVESTIGATION FOR ME IS TO ASK THE QUESTION, COULD THIS BE PREVENTING. WE CAN START ACCUMULATING OTHER RECORDS O F THE SAME FACILITY. WELL, HEY, THREE MONTHS AGO, THERE WAS A COMPLAINT, WHAT DID THE FACILITY DO TO PREVENT THIS ACT OF VIOLENCE BY ONE RESIDENT ON ANOTHER. DID THEY TAKE THE KIND OF PRESSURE MEASURE WHAT WE WOULD EXPECT? IF THEY DID NOT, MAYBE DOWN THE ROAD THERE WOULD BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ME TO ALLEGED THE FACILITY. DO YOU HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CLOSE A FACILITY DOWN IF YOU HAVE CAUSE OR SUSPECT THERE IS AS PATTERN OF VIOLENCE OR WIDESPREAD NEGLECT. WELL, THAT'S GOOD, TOO WHAT WE COULD DO IS IF WE UNCOVER EVIDENCE WHERE WE FEEL RISE TO THE LEVEL WHERE THAT FACILITY SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, THEY INDEPENDENTLY IF IT LEAD TO THE PROSECUTION OF THE ADMINISTER. I AM SPEAKING WITH PAUL GREEN WOOD, HE'S A DISTRICT ATTORNEY, THE HEAD OF THE ELDERLY ABUSE PROSECUTION UNIT OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE. HOW MANY ASSISTANT FACILITIES IN THE SAN DIEGO AREA. THERE IS OVER 670 FACILITY IN THE COUNTY WHICH ARE LICENSED AND REGISTERED WITH THE COMMUNITY. IN ADDITION, THERE ARE THIS OTHER OF UNLICENSED FACILITY WHO SPRING UP ALL OVER THE COUNTY WHERE THEY REALLY OUGHT TO BE LICENSED. SO THAT'S ANOTHER PART OF MY MISSION IS TO UNCOVER ANY FACILITIES THAT ARE NOT SUBJECT SCRUTINY FROM THE COMMUNITY. THEY'RE RENTING OUT ROOMS VULNERABLE ADULTS WHERE THEY SHOULD SCREENED. WHAT'S THE REASON FOR THOSE SPRINGING UP OF THESE UNLICENSED FACILITIES. IS IT BECAUSE THEY OFFER A CHEAPER ACCOMODATION? YES, FOR THE OWNER OF THE THE HOUSE CONVERTED TO THREE RESTROOMS AND THEY DIVIDE UP THE BED AND BRING IN SIX PEOPLE AND THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE COMING UP FOR LOW COST HOUSING MAYBE PAYING $500 TO $700 A MONTH RENT. IN RETURN, WE HAVE ONE CASE TWO WEEKS AGO THERE WERE ALLEGATIONS OF THE WATER HAD BEEN SHUT OFF FOR SEVERAL DAYS AND THESE RESIDENTS WERE THERE WITHOUT PROPER WATER. WE WERE ABLE TO BRING IN CODE ENFORCEMENT AND GET IN RIGHT. I UNDERSTAND YOU DO GET REPORT FRS THE COMBHUNT LICENSEING OF LICENSING. WHO DOES THE REPORTING? THE STAFF MEMBER IS A MANDATE REPORTER. FROM THE ADMINISTRATOR AT THE TOP DOWN TO THE LOW LEVEL EMPLOYEES WORKING THERE, THEY'RE ALL MANDATED. WE DO EXPECT AND UP UNTIL NOW, IT HAS BEEN SELF REPORTING FROM THE FACILITIES TO THE COMMUNITY AND THEY TRANSFER IT. THE ADDITION OF THIS REPORTING LINE IS ENCOURAGING THE PUBLIC. FOR EXAMPLE, IF A DAUGHTER OR SON IS VISITING, MAYBE SOME ONE IN GREAT NEED OF ATTENTION, THEY SHOULD NOT BE IN THAT FACILITY. THAT'S THE KIND OF EVIDENCE THAT WE NEED. THEY COULD CALL IT IN OR ME ANONYMOUS AND THEY'LL FOLLOW UP WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR UNIT GETS A REPORT LIKE THAT? WE HAVE TWO PARALEGALS WHO'LL BE SCREENING IT. THEY'LL COME TO ME. IF IT IS WHAT WE BELIEVED TO BE ON THE SURFACE SERIOUS ENOUGH, I WILL THEN ASSIGN AN INVESTIGATOR TO GO OUT TO THE FACILITY UNANNOUNCED MAKE SOME FURTHER INQUIRIES TO SEE IF THIS IS GENUINE. REMIND US OF WHAT KIND OF MONITORING THAT'S DONE IN THE LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES OR ASSISTANT LIVING FACILITIES. UNDER STATE'S REGULATIONS, THEY'RE REQUIRED TO MAKE ONE VISIT EVERY FIVE YEARS. OH. AND SOMETIMES THESE FACILITIES NEVER GET VISITED BY A STATE EMPLOYEE. SO THAT'S AGAIN, AN AREA THAT'S BEING LOOKED AT BY SACRAMENTO TO CHANGE IT TO ONCE A YEAR. BUT, YOU CAN IMAGINE IF THAT FACILITY GETS TIPPED OFF WHEN THE VISIT IS, THEY CAN LOOK VERY IMPRESSIVE ON THAT ONE DAY O F THE ONE YEAR AND THE REST OF IT, THEY COULD IGNORE THOSE REGULATIONS. YOU ARE GETTING A LOT OF, THIS PILOT PROGRAM IS GIVING YOUR OFFICE MORE LATITUDE WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING THE INFORMATION YOU NEED AND HAVING THE ABILITY TO STEP IN AND STOP SOME OF THESE ABUSE INCIDENTS. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN? WHAT KIND OF POWER WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE THAT YOU DON'T HAVE NOW? WELL, I AM HAPPY WITH WHAT WE HAVE. THE RESOURCES THAT WE GAINED BECAUSE OF THIS INITIATIVE IS WONDERFUL. I HAVE ALWAYS DREAMT TO HAVE A FULL-TIME INVESTIGATORS AT MY DISPOSAL WHO CAN ROLL OUT A SITUATION. MY ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO NOT HAVE POWER. IF THEY HAVE THIS DIFFICULT DECISION TO PLACE A LOVED ONE FAIR FACILITY IN OUR COUNTY, THEY CAN DO SO WITHOUT WORRYING. THEY HOPE TO ACTUALLY PUT A GRADE, A LETTER ON SOME OF THESE FACILITIES. IF A FACILITY ENDS UP WITH A DOUBLE AA GRADING, THE CONCERN IS THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD FACILITY. WE WANT THE CITIZEN OF OUR COUNTY TO HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO KNOW THEY'RE PLACED IN A SAFETY ENVIRONMENT. HOW FAR ARE THE PROGRAM ARE THERE ACTUAL FACILITIES THAT HAVE RATINGS NOW OR ABOUT TO GET THEM. 18 FACILITIES HAVE SIGNED UP FOR THIS PILOT PROJECT. IT STARTED ON MAY THE 1st. BY SEPTEMBER, THEY HOPE TO HAVE THOSE 18 FACILITIES RATED. WHAT WE HOPE WILL MEAN THAT OTHER FACILITIES WILL BE ENCOURAGED TO JOIN THE PROGRAM BECAUSE BY NOT JOINING IT, MAYBE SOME RED FLAGS WILL BE RAISED. HOW LONG A PILOT PROGRAM IS THAT? WELL, I HOPE AND THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TODAY GAVE US PERMISSION TO FINANCE IT ANOTHER YEAR. I HOPE IT BECOMES PERMANENT. THESE ARE PRECIOUS PEOPLE OUR COMMUNITY. SOMETIMES THEY ARE OVER LOOKED AND FORGOTTEN AND THEY SHOULD NOT BE. MY FATHER DIED FROM ALZHEIMER'S, I WAS IN A FACILITY FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS. HIS LAST THREE YEARS WAS TREATED BY DIGNITY. IT IS AS PROGRAM THAT NOT ONLY IS GOING TO BE PERMANENT HERE, IT IS GOING TO BE LOOKED AT MY OTHER COUNTIES IN CALIFORNIA AND HOPING ACROSS THE NATION. SINCE WE INITIATED OF THIS PROGRAM, I HAVE HAD OTHER STATES CALLED ME AND FOUND OUT ABOUT US. UNFORTUNATELY, NOT MANY STATES ARE TAKING THE LEAD IN THIS AREA. FINALLY, PAUL, RIGHT NOW, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS AS RELATIVE IN LONG-TERM CARE OR IS THINKING FOR AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY. ARE THERE RED FLAGS THEY SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR WHEN IT COMES TO THE CARE OF THEIR LOVED ONES. YES, THERE ARE. I WOULD URGE EVERYONE TO MAKE UNANNOUNCED VISIT DIFFERENT TIME OF THE DAY AND NIGHT. GO IN AT MIDNIGHT TO SEE THE LEVEL OF STAFFING THERE IS AND TO SEE IF THERE ARE OTHER RESIDENTS WHO'S BEEN CALLING OUT FOR HELP OR THE CALL LIGHT BUTTON IS BROKEN OR LISTEN TO MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT MY MEAL IS LATE OR I HAVE NOT HAD MY DIAPER CHANGED OR ALSO, TO BEFORE YOU PLACE A LOVED ONE IN THE FACILITY, CALL OUT AND TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT ANY CITATIONS THAT'S BEEN ISSUED AGAINST THE FACILITY. IF YOU DO HAVE CONCERNS, YOU CAN CALL THE N MAY I GIVE IT OUT. THE PLEASE DO. THE 619-53 619-531-3352. IF YOU SEE FIRSTHAND ANY SITUATION THAT RISE TO THE LEVEL OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IN A RESIDENTIAL FACILITY IN SAN DIEGO, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL. WE DO HAVE THAT NUMBER ON OUR WEBSITE AS WELL, PAUL GREEN, HEAD OF THE PROSECUTION UNIT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, PAUL, I REALLY DO APPRECIATE IT. MY PLEASURE.

Elder abuse investigations ramp up in San Diego County as supervisors vote Tuesday on funding a pilot program aimed at protecting senior citizens.

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, alongside county Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox, announced the results of the Long Term Care Special Prosecutions Unit Monday.

The team opened 113 cases since it launched last summer. The group includes prosecutors, investigators and paralegals who help investigate and prosecute potential abuse cases involving senior citizens and at long-term residential care facilities. They also raise awareness about preventing and reporting abuse and neglect.

Felony charges have been filed in five of the cases and 56 are still under review. Team members say another 50 cases have been rejected because of lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Dumanis also announced the launch of more resources for senior citizens and their families, including a new website and abuse reporting line. At a press conference, she said their goal is to protect the most vulnerable citizens in San Diego County.

San Diego County handles approximately 9,000 cases of elder and dependent adult abuses each year.

Information on reporting abuse and warning signs to watch for can be found here.

"We're working to help even more victims of elder abuse and to stop those who prey on them," Dumanis said.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood, a national leader in elder abuse protection who oversees the Long Term Care Special Prosecutions Unit, said he isn't concerned about the number of charges.

"I'm more pleased that we have a presence now," Greenwood told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "The beauty of having this sub-unit is we can start accumulating records of (senior) facilities."

The phone number to report abuse is 619-531-3342. Calls will be screened by District Attorney's staff for potential follow-up by investigators.