Public hearing held on Bill 511 - News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Public hearing held on Bill 511

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - It's a start. A public hearing was held on Bill 511 - a measure that proposes updating Guam's 20-year-old law related to operations of Adult Protective Services. It strengthens laws related to reporting the abuse of the island's elderly and adults with disabilities.

According to Adult Protective Services, they receive an average of 200 cases of elderly abuse and abuse of adults with disabilities every year - that's about one every other day.  "It's amazing the stories I hear everyday it's just incredible," said Public Health director Jim Gillan.

So incredible, according to Gillan, that he can't believe would happen here in our community. "There was a case just had a case that we had the Attorney General's Office give us an opinion on whether the contents of a home could be considered part of the deed that a parent gave to his children and they refused to let that parent have his possessions. What's happening to us?"

Bill 511 would not only update Guam's 20-year-old APS law, but also would provide more manpower to the agency.

Although it's a start-for resident Mark Colby, the legislation is too little too late for his dad, who passed away last November.  Colby quit his job to take care of his father full-time, explaining, "Only now you guys want to do something?"  Colby, who brought a picture of his father, said he contacted numerous senators reaching out for help.

He shared with senators the numerous problems he encountered with his neighbors who would blare loud music, interrupting his father's rest, he called the police several times but was told there was nothing they could do because they weren't breaking any laws.

Although his dad has since passed he mustered the courage to come forward-- in hopes of preventing his situation from happening to others.  He testified in support of the bill but emphasized it wouldn't be worth anything if it's not enforced. He stated, "I want you all to just take a good look at my father and remember he's just one of hundreds that you guys neglected, whether you will admit it or not."

Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco participated in the crafting of the legislation and testified in support of the measure but also acknowledged Mr. Colby and the work that still must be done. "I'm sorry for what has happened to you, sir," he proclaimed, "and it may be that sometimes the law is not as responsive at it could be so to that extent I apologize to you."

And although Mr. Colby was there for his father, according to Gillan there are countless others who aren't as fortunate - and Bill 511 is just the start. He said, "There's a tidal wave of needs for our senior citizens and its coming and its coming very fast. We are living longer but we're not living very well we're frail, we're weak, we're living in substandard housing. There are people out there who have nobody, thank God that man had his son. There are elderly out there that have no one."

The legislation was introduced by Senator Aline Yamashita, who has been meeting with stakeholders over the last several months to draft the bill.

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