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For immediate release: June 15, 2017
Contact: Public Information Office
Phone: 518-402-3130

New York State Agencies Announce New Ways to Keep Older New Yorkers Safe

 FEIST and Gatekeepers Prevention Initiatives Announced on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) and Office of Children and Family Services’ (OCFS) Bureau of Adult Services (BAS) announce new initiatives to keep older New Yorkers and their financial assets safe. The announcement coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15.

“Gatekeepers” will help people who have frequent contact with older adults recognize when additional supports may be needed. Participants will be trained in how to better connect older adults to services and open a gate to help in the community. Gatekeepers come from a variety of professions and volunteer organizations, including those who deliver meals; package delivery services, such as the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS; clergy and faith-based organizations; nurses and other health professionals; hairdressers, nail salon and barber shop workers; caregivers; and others.

OCFS and NYSOFA have developed training for adult protective services and aging network staff in counties and New York City. Local staff will, in turn, reach out to organizations and professionals in their communities who have frequent contact with older New Yorkers to educate them about the characteristics of vulnerable older adults. Certain signs may indicate the need for help, such as confusion, illness, inability to meet basic needs; or the potential to be a victim of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. The training will also cover preventing and reporting abuse, and education about available community resources. The initiative’s goal is to better connect older New Yorkers to community support services, reduce isolation and prevent abuse.

OCFS Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz said, “OCFS and NYSOFA have developed a program for local workers to educate Gatekeepers – who are well-positioned to encounter older adults and assess any signs of vulnerability. When Gatekeepers see that a client, friend or neighbor needs help, they will know how to open the gate to vital services and supports that vulnerable adults need to maintain their dignity and independence.” 

NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said, “State and local partnerships, which include engaging members of the community are the only real ways to help identify and protect people from the various forms of abuse. This initiative is an important step in providing a set of tools and resources so that there is a community response to protecting older adults.”

Senior Services of Albany Executive Director Monika Boeckmann said, “Statistics show that 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of abuse. Experts believe that for every reported case of abuse or neglect, as many as 23 cases go unreported. As a provider of Meals on Wheels and transportation to older residents, Senior Services of Albany is especially excited about the Gatekeeper initiative that will provide training to drivers and other individuals who have direct and personal contact with seniors, so they know what to look for and who to contact if they suspect abuse.”

Another project underway to protect older New Yorkers is being piloted in Onondaga and Queens Counties. The Financial Exploitation Investigation Suite of Tools (FEIST) was developed under a federal grant to assist adult protective services staff in conducting financial exploitation investigations. It is designed to enhance the quality of client interviews and help adult protective services staff collect the documentation and financial records for forensic accountants. The grant provides for access to a forensic accountant for complex cases in the pilot counties. FEIST also assists in providing documentation for potential civil or criminal proceedings. At the end of the pilot project, OCFS will assess the training’s effectiveness to determine if it should be used statewide.