ATLANTA, GA - Older adults in Franklin and Hart Counties will be better protected against abuse thanks to a $400,000 federal grant awarded to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). The three-year grant, one of only ten awarded nationwide, is funded by the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, and aims to support a comprehensive approach to addressing elder abuse. The grant partners, Harmony House Child Advocacy Center/Sexual Assault Center, Franklin and Hart Counties Sheriff’s Departments, Northern Judicial Circuit Office of the District Attorney, and Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging, will work cohesively in identifying and prosecuting elder abuse in Franklin and Hart Counties.

The grant partners will provide training opportunities for victim service organizations, governmental agencies, courts, and law enforcement entities on how to interact with and assist victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Franklin County Sheriff, Stevie Thomas, shared his sentiments on the potential impact this project could have on the community. “The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is excited about the opportunity to support and strengthen our efforts to investigate crimes against our elderly and most vulnerable adults. We welcome the chance to work with other agencies in our community to bring more awareness to crimes against this growing population. We know that working together on this issue will bring greater knowledge to our community and in the end will make our community safer.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the increased vulnerability of older adults. Due to quarantine measures and limitations on visiting residential facilities, it has become easier for abuse, neglect, and fraud to go undetected. In rural communities, elder abuse victims face additional obstacles in getting the help and services that they need, including the isolation created by such environments and the lack of means to access services. Victims are also often resistant to accepting assistance, and professionals may perceive a victim’s injuries as arising from aging, illness, or disability instead of recognizing that the injuries may be attributed to violence in the home or a care facility. Consequently, establishing a network of information and training for service providers that interact with elderly adults is paramount to ending abuse in later life.

“Harmony House Leadership and Multidisciplinary Team members in the Northern Judicial Circuit appreciate the opportunity to expand services for our vulnerable elderly adults,” said Laurie Whitworth, CEO of Harmony House CAC/SAC. “In rural areas, service providers are often challenged with identifying and responding to elderly victims of abuse. The OVW Enhanced Training and Services funding will provide critical resources and will be instrumental in our journey to properly providing services and positive outcomes for our elderly victims of abuse.”

CJCC and the grant partners will also work collaboratively with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to provide subject matter expertise on elder abuse and develop an online curriculum for providers and first responders who respond to situations involving abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults. “The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia is proud to partner with CJCC and other local agencies to further Georgia’s efforts to protect our elder population.” said Executive Director Pete Skandalakis. “We are thankful to CJCC for seeking out this funding opportunity and working with us to end elder abuse.”

This grant provides an opportunity for dialogue, advocacy, education, and support among state agencies, community-based organizations, first responders, and the public; it will further the work of the grantee partners to expand their knowledge and ability to affect positive change for victims of elder abuse and the communities in which they live.

“The older adult population is one of the most vulnerable. Federal grants like this provide additional resources to organizations to focus on training and services to assist older adults that may be abused or exploited. We are happy these resources are being made available here in Georgia,” said Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

###

About the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC)

Created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1981 as an Executive Branch agency, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) represents the culmination of many efforts to establish a statewide body that would build consensus and unity among the State's diverse and interdependent, criminal justice system components. For more information visit the CJCC website: https://cjcc.georgia.gov/.

CJCC Contact:

Dannielle Lewis, Communications and External Affairs 

Dannielle.Lewis@cjcc.ga.gov

404-783-2163