BALLOT BOX: Proposal 4 is important to the health and safety of our seniors

By David Leyton

As a prosecutor who's fought on the front lines against crime, abuse and neglect, I see firsthand the tragic consequences of what happens when seniors and persons with disabilities are put at risk because common-sense safeguards and accountability measures are not in place.

That's why Proposal 4 is so important to the health, safety and independence of our most vulnerable citizens.

Across Michigan, county sheriffs, local police chiefs, prosecutors and many others are voicing their support for Proposal 4 because they understand how it can improve the safety and well-being of many Michigan seniors and people with disabilities. As members of the law enforcement community, we are proud to join senior and disability rights groups, consumer organizations, faith leaders, medical professionals and veterans groups in urging a yes vote on Proposal 4.

Proposal 4 will establish a registry that links seniors and people with disabilities with home care providers who must undergo strict background checks to be on the registry. This is an important safeguard for our loved ones.

Seniors and persons with disabilities are all too often the victims of abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse defines six different types of common abuse perpetrated on seniors and people with disabilities:

There's physical abuse, when someone inflicts or threatens to inflict physical pain or injury to a senior or person with a disability, or deprives them of a basic need. There's emotional abuse, such as causing mental pain, anguish, or distress. There's sexual abuse. There's exploitation, when criminals illegally take or misuse seniors and people with disabilities' funds and property. There's neglect, when abusers refuse to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for seniors and people with disabilities. And there's abandonment, when a senior or person with a disability is simply deserted.

These crimes happen regularly in Michigan. According to estimates by the Department of Human Services, about 14,000 elder abuse cases are reported on average each year. The Michigan Adult Protective Services estimates this problem will only worsen, with numbers rising 30 percent in the past five years alone as more Michiganders get older. Abuse of people with disabilities often goes unreported, raising serious concerns about the safety of the 2 million Michiganders with disabilities.

Far too frequently, abuse of seniors and people with disabilities comes from caregivers--the same people entrusted to take care of our loved ones. This is what makes the background checks component of Proposal 4 so critical.

Under Proposal 4, home care providers will also receive access to training on issues like adult first aid, CPR, nutrition, and working with elders with Alzheimer's and dementia--critical training and skills that can save lives. The registry will then match home care recipients with up to three pre-screened and trained providers in their area that fit the criteria they provide.

Michigan seniors and persons with disabilities, as well as their loved ones, deserve peace of mind knowing that home care providers in their area have been fully screened and trained.

As a two-term prosecutor who has spent years fighting for the safety and security of seniors and people with disabilities, I will vote "Yes" on Proposal 4 and urge others to join me on Election Day.

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David Leyton has been Genesee County Prosecutor since 2005. He was recently elected president of the Board of Directors of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM).

Published: Fri, Nov 2, 2012