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The EAP works with our community to better identify unmet needs and available resources, create strategies to work toward desired outcomes, and reduce duplication of services. We work together to ensure the system works for older adults in need.

What is the Elder Advocacy Program?

The Elder Advocacy Program (EAP) offers a multi-disciplinary, community response to elder abuse and exploitation. Through our partnership with the New York State Unified Court System, Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, and our growing collaboration with and expansion into Cattaraugus County, the EAP provides a trauma-informed, client-centered approach to survivors of abuse to reduce harm, identify needs and desired outcomes, and create solutions. The Program works to address systemic barriers to our justice and social systems and improve court and long-term outcomes for survivors.

Serving individuals aged 55 and older in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties, the EAP acts as a single point-of-entry for survivors of elder abuse. Our team, comprised of Supervising Attorney Nicole K. Parshall, Staff Attorney Gabrielle Markle, Social Worker Amanda Chase, Staff Paralegal Francine Rondenell, and Legal Assistant Kelsie Abbt, works together with our clients and in collaboration with allied professionals, including Adult Protective Services, law enforcement, Area Offices for the Aging, and financial institutions, to coordinate a client-driven response aimed at achieving desired outcomes and ensuring survivors’ needs are met.

What does the Elder Advocacy Program do?

Direct Services

The team conducts a global assessment of the survivor’s needs to identify legal and non-legal issues and link the survivor with appropriate services. Our team attorneys provide counsel and advice and representation in a variety of actions and proceedings aimed at stemming abuse and helping survivors obtain the outcomes they seek. We have the capacity to remotely file Family Offense Petitions in Family Court, allowing home-bound and institutionalized clients to access the court system without having to be physically present. Our team social worker coordinates with survivors to address their various social, medical, housing, and other non-legal needs, working with them and other community partners to find solutions and resources appropriate to the survivors’ needs. Our team also works with law enforcement and the County Enhanced Multi-Disciplinary Team on appropriate cases and provides accessibility assistance in civil and criminal courts. We also have limited emergency funds available to meet the basic needs of those survivors in particularly urgent situations.

Services Include:

Civil Legal Representation

  • Family Court Orders of Protection
  • Execution & Revocation of Power of Attorney & Health Care Proxy
  • Special Proceedings under Power of Attorney statute
  • Civil Complaints to Recover money
  • Evictions or ejectments

Assistance with Law Enforcement

  • Support & assistance in making initial contact with police
  • Follow-up with law enforcement once police report filed
  • Advocacy regarding wishes of survivor

Courtroom Accessibility

  • Court advocate & support person
  • Transportation assistance
  • Provision of accessibility devices
    • Wheelchairs
    • Hearing amplifiers
    • Document magnifiers

Assistance with Finances

  • Connection with Adult Protective Services and the Social Security Administration for representative payee assistance
  • Advocacy to banks & financial institutions, including representation in creditor lawsuits
  • Budgeting assistance

Assistance with Medical and Social Needs

  • Connecting older adults with services including:
    • Office for the Aging
    • In-home care providers
    • Community centers and social groups
    • Meals on Wheels

Additional Services

  • Referral to the Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County Enhanced Multi-Disciplinary Teams
  • Access to a forensic accountant and geriatric specialist
  • Assistance with application for compensation from the NYS Office of Victims Services
  • Emergency Funds for shelter, food, transportation and additional services on a case-by-case basis
  • Medicaid assistance
  • Referrals to WNY Coalition Pooled Trust

Education

Key to the success of the EAP is the training on elder abuse we provide to community members and stakeholders alike, including residents and staff of adult living facilities, the courts, law enforcement, government and community organizations, and financial institutions. Through education, the EAP seeks to increase awareness and identification of elder abuse in the community so that appropriate interventions can be implemented. Out trainings cover the prevalence and types of elder abuse, questions of capacity, Powers of Attorney, criminal and civil laws relating to elder abuse cases, accessibility issues for older adults, and other, audience-specific topics. Additionally, we educate on the services available through the EAP and our partners so that survivors and their loved ones know that the Elder Advocacy Program is a resource available to their community.

Why the EAP Works

The EAP believes that a community knowledgeable about the presence and prevalence of elder abuse is a community able to combat elder abuse. To identify it, you must first know what it looks like. To that end, the EAP has made it its mission to educate community members and allied professionals alike so that they are able to identify elder abuse and know what steps they can take to address it. Our education campaign has proven results.

Success By the Numbers

Center for Elder Law and Justice has provided free legal services in Chautauqua County since long before the 2018 launch of the EAP. However, while those services included assistance to victims of elder abuse, the number of cases CELJ opened for survivors were few, as the referrals were received were minimal. In the three years prior to the EAP’s launch, 2015 – 2017, CELJ opened 12 elder abuse cases in Chautauqua County. Since the launch of the EAP in Chautauqua County and the education campaign that followed, CELJ has opened 116 assessment files to determine the nature of issues and whether further action is required; an additional 101 legal files; and 25 EMDT cases. Similarly, between 2017 and 2019, the three years prior to our recent expansion into Cattaraugus County, CELJ opened a total of 21 elder abuse cases for Cattaraugus County residents: 11 EMDT cases and 10 legal files. Since the EAP's still young expansion into Cattaraugus County in 2020, CELJ has opened 11 assessment files; an additional 12 legal files; and 4 EMDT cases.

Collaboration is Key

The EAP brings a community response to elder abuse by working closely with our partners and allied professionals to address a survivor’s full range of needs. Absent our collaboration with Adult Protective Services, law enforcement, the court system, and various other community organizations, survivors of abuse would be left to navigate systems not necessarily designed with the needs of older adults in mind. By working together within our community, the EAP is able to better identify unmet needs and available resources, create strategies to work toward desired outcomes, and reduce duplication of services. We work together to ensure the system works for older adults in need.

This webpage was supported, in part, by a grant (90EJIG0011-01-00) from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Grantees carrying out projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Therefore, points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official ACL or DHHS policy.

 

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