NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Tennessee is cracking down people abuse some of our state's most vulnerable: the elderly. A new law will strengthen the penalties for those charged with elder abuse.
Lawmakers passed the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019 last year, which went into effect on January 1st. This law increases penalties for the most dangerous crimes involving elder abuse as well as expands the availability of orders of protection for elderly and vulnerable adults.
The penalties will go from a class C to a class B felony. A class B felony conviction could result in a prison sentence between eight to 30 years and a $25,000 fine, compared to three to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine under class C.
In 2019, The Nashville Davidson Attorney General's Office County received 1300 referrals regarding abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or sexual exploitation.
Statewide those numbers are even higher, in 2019, there were about 10,300 cases investigated.
"Those numbers are shocking, and I believe it will be shocking for the community to know how many referrals, how many reports about this that we actually see," said Brittani Flatt.
Flatt, a Assistant District Attorney is part of the Davidson County District Attorney's Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team. The team is responsible for reviewing thousands of cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. A law passed in 2017 created a Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team in each judicial district. They work alongside police the State's Adult Protective Services and other stakeholders in helping victims as well as prosecuting cases.
"I do believe that it is a problem and I do believe that now everybody is taking considerable measures to try and reduce that. This does happen, protect your loved ones, protect your next-door neighbor, watch out for certain signs and certainly report this information," said Flatt.
Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state. If you know of any abuse you are required to report it to the Adult Protective Services, you can remain anonymous.
Toll Free 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366) Or, report suspected abuse online at our secure site: https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/