New Law Helps Deter Adult Abuse

In Part 1 of this story, Highland Department of Social Services personnel informed us about May being Foster Care Awareness Month, but that isn’t all.

“I’m Holly McVeigh, I’m a family services specialist at the Department of Social Services and Highland, and I’m an Adult Protective Service Worker and Adult Service Worker.”

“May is also Adult Abuse Awareness Month, which is formally recognized by Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam. This month offers Virginians the opportunity to improve the safety and well-being of adults aged 60 years and older, or incapacitated adults aged 18 to 59.”

She explained, “In state fiscal year 2018, Virginia Adult Protective Services received more than 31,000 reports, a 16% increase from last year. Of those reports, 13,261 were substantiated. Locally, as of 2017 33% of Highland’s population was age 65 years of age and older. Of that 33%, 16 adults were the subject of an APS report in state fiscal year 2018. The largest majority of reports statewide were due to self-neglect.”

“So what can you do to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of our community members?,” she asked. “Recognize the sign’s –  abuse most frequently occurs in the adults’ own home, and perpetrators are most often someone close to the victim. An adult being neglected may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed; may be isolated, or isolate themselves from their friends or family; have unusual changes in behavior, or may seem sad or fearful. More obvious signs of abuse or neglect are broken bones, bruises, sores or burns, unusual weight loss, unclean skin or clothing, or lack of proper medication.”

She continued, “Signs of exploitation are usually more difficult to recognize. It may only be noticed by a close family member or bank personnel. Some signs of exploitation may be: unusual changes in bank account transactions or money management services; consolidation of multiple accounts, or the opening of new accounts; quick changes to a will or other financial documents such as the power of attorney; sudden unpaid bills, or suspicious signatures on financial documents.”

“Virginia’s House Bill 1987, passed just this year, authorizes financial institutions’ staff to refuse to execute a transaction, delay a transaction. or refuse to disperse funds if they believe the action may involve, facilitate, or result in financial exploitation of an aged or incapacitated adult. This is an important addition to legislation as financial exploitation in Virginia is on the rise.”

She concluded, “We all want our family, friends and neighbors to feel safe in our living environment. It’s important to report any suspicion you may have of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation as soon as you notice it. Your identity will be kept confidential, or you can choose to remain anonymous. If you suspect an individual is neglecting themselves, or is being abused, neglected, or exploited in any way, please call the Highland County Department of Social Services at 540-468-2199, and ask for Holly McVeigh or Emily Malcolm. You may also call the 24 hour toll free hotline at 1-888-832-3858.”

“Thank you for helping Highland County fight back against adult abuse.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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