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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
abuse.35 States with mandatory reporting generally impose penalties, such as fines, imprisonment, or license revocation, if reporting does not occur within a specified time period following discovery of the abuse (Capezuti et al., 1997; Kapp, 1995; Macolini, 1995; Marshall et al., 2000; Moskowitz, 1998b), although enforcement is generally lax (Heisler and Quinn, 1995; Roby and Sullivan, 2000). According to Roby and Sullivan (2000), almost half of these states have universal mandatory reporting, while the other states limit mandatory reporting to specifically identified categories of professionals. Reporting is frequently mandatory for certain professionals, such as police officers, social workers, welfare and mental health workers, nursing home employees, and licensed health care providers, and permissive for all others (Dessin, 2000). In several states, certain professionals who have a confidential relationship with the elder person (e.g., clergy, physicians, lawyers, and therapists) are exempt from reporting, while other states require reporting notwithstanding conflicting confidentiality rules (Roby and Sullivan, 2000). The professionals mandated to provide reports vary from state to state (Moskowitz, 1998b).36
States typically provide good faith immunity for the reporter, regardless of whether abuse is confirmed and regardless of whether the reports came from a mandatory or a voluntary reporter (Capezuti et al., 1997; Moskowitz, 1998a; Roby and Sullivan, 2000). In most states, professionals who report abuse are also protected by disclosure confidentiality laws that prohibit the disclosure of the identity of the person who provided the report without that person’s written consent (Marshall et al., 2000; Moskowitz, 1998a). States vary as to when a report is required, with most states having a more stringent standard for individuals having contact with the elderly in their professional capacity and a generic standard for everyone else (Roby and Sullivan, 2000).
Reports are generally directed to an agency authorized to initiate an investigation, with this investigation to be started within a specified time period (Moskowitz, 1998b; Roby and Sullivan, 2000). If the agency that received the report is not a law enforcement agency, it will turn the matter over to a criminal justice agency if it determines that a crime might have been committed, although some states require that a competent victim give permission to proceed (Henningsen, 2001; Roby and Sullivan, 2000). In
But see Wisconsin where investigations of reports of material financial abuse must begin within five business days, while investigations of other forms of elder abuse must begin with 24 hours (Henningsen, 2001).
At least 20 types of professionals are listed as mandatory reporters in the various states, including ambulance drivers, attorneys, bank personnel, chiropractors, clergy, and dentists (Moskowitz, 1998b).