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Elder Justice Task Force announced to deal with scams targeting the elderly
CEDAR RAPIDS - In the past fiscal year, the Heritage Area Agency on Aging's Elder Abuse and Awareness program has taken 100 referrals throughout its seven county coverage area.
But Jill Gleason, Heritage's associate director, said elder abuse - such as neglect, mistreatment or exploitation - said the problem is actually much more extensive.
'There are many, many more who are embarrassed to come forward,” Gleason said.
But, Gleason said she was hopeful that elder abuse and scams targeting the elderly will be brought to light by a collaboration of federal, state and local officials whose mission is to tackle those issues. On Monday, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau announced the formation of the Elder Justice Task Force in the northern district. Techau said the mission of the task force is to hold accountable nursing homes, long-term care providers and potential fraudsters and scammers.
'We're all working together because we believe our most vulnerable citizens require our attention,” Techau said.
The task force was announced at the Oakhill Jackson Community Church. Techau was joined by other partners, including Gleason, Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler, Cedar Rapids FBI resident agent in charge Gabriel Poling and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Jacob Schunk who Techau said will 'quarterback” the task force.
Schunk said the task force will ensure Medicare and Medicaid funds are being appropriately spent by nursing homes and long-term care providers and will go after scammers who target the elderly. He said 20-30 partners will be part of the task force.
The U.S. Northern District of Iowa is one of only 10 nationwide districts designated to form an elder justice task force.
'Our district has shown we're dedicated to this issue,” Techau said.
Poling said the partnership between local, state and federal partners is 'critical, so nothing falls through the cracks.” He also emphasized the importance of the public notifying authorities if they believe something is amiss at a care facility or if they discover a potential scam.
'That's one of the most importance pieces of this, the local tips,” Poling said.
Techau said the task force will have its first meeting next week.