Guam - It's estimated that almost every other day a senior citizen or adult with a disability is abused on Guam. Tomorrow at the Guam Legislature an important bill will have a public hearing Bill 511 will not only strengthen the law to protect our elderly and disabled, but also provide adult protective services the help it needs to carry out its mission.
"We've been working on this measure for months now," noted Art San Agustin with Public Health's Division of Senior Citizens. He cited the legislation, introduced by Senator Aline Yamashita, saying, "511 is an attempt to update the mandate that will ensure our man'amko are safe."
Since April, San Agustin, who administers Adult Protective Services, Senator Aline Yamashita, and representatives from organizations and government entities such as Catholic Social Services, GHURA, Guam Fire, the Office of the Public Guardian, the Judiciary and the AG's Office have been meeting weekly to update Guam's law related to Adult Protective Services and its mission to protect the island's senior citizens and adults with disabilities.
The senator said, "A huge difference, for example, is that if you are a first responder if you go into a house to help and you see that something's not quite right here. This bill here says you have to report it; if you work at a bank and you see that all of a sudden an account is being drained or there's amounts of monies being transferred out and something's not quite right here, then you need to register that and call up APS and they do the investigation."
Bill 511 would also update the definitions of abuse. APS supervisor Jocelyn Cruz said, "We've looked at the definition of physical abuse and a change in the bill or the change with the bill would be to define sexual abuse separate form the current definition, which is in physical abuse."
The three most common forms of abuse on Guam against our man'amko and adults with disabilities are neglect, material and financial abuse, and mental and emotional abuse. According to the latest statistics Adult Protective Services has seen an increase in reports of abuse since 2007- on average about 200 cases of abuse are reported annually. The shocking part there are only three social workers at APS handling their cases from start to finish, something that will be addressed in bill 511
San Agustin said, "They do all the components of the social work continuum of service."
The legislation would restructure APS and allow for the hiring of additional social workers. The public hearing on Bill 511 is scheduled for Friday at one o'clock in the Legislature's Public Hearing Room.
Senator Yamashita said, "It's a sad statement to make we have hundreds and hundreds of our seniors being neglected or abused in different ways.