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September 2023 Newsletter

September 2023, Issue 9

Thank you for your interest in Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task Force (EATF) – an alliance representing more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and non-profit sectors – all working together to reduce barriers facing our aging population.

Please take a few minutes to catch up on what the Task Force has been up to since our last issue in August 2022.

If you want this information sent regularly to your email inbox, it’s as easy as signing up using the link below. 

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Featured Topics

Randi Merchant

Michigan Gets New Public Administrator

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has appointed current Assistant Attorney General Randi Merchant as Michigan’s Public Administrator. Merchant is a 12-year veteran in the Department of Attorney General, and most recently served in the Revenue and Tax Division. The State Public Administrator has oversight over the appointed county public administrators who have powers and duties primarily related to intestate decedent estates where there are apparently no known heirs, including managing the determination, collection, liquidation, and/or distribution of any assets in the estate.

The appointment of Merchant is part of the Attorney General’s continued efforts to expand oversight of the probate of estates, as well as guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in order to further benefit Michigan residents.

DAG Law Enforcement training October 2023 registration form

DAG Law Enforcement Training: Conducting Abuse & Neglect Investigations

The Department of Attorney General is hosting two law enforcement trainings this October. The series is called Conducting Abuse & Neglect Investigations. 

You will hear from experts on how to effectively investigate complaints of abuse and neglect in residential care settings such as nursing homes, adult foster care homes, and more.

You will also learn:

  • how to identify signs of possible criminal abuse;
  • the methods of proper evidence gathering;
  • the regulatory framework;
  • applicable legal tools and offenses, and more.

This training is open to attorneys and law enforcement only.

Register Today

Lady Justice with scales in hand

Elder Abuse Legislation

The Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) was developed further in concert with numerous stakeholders, including the Elder Abuse Task Force’s Power of Attorney Subcommittee, and referred to the House Judiciary committee (House Bills 4644-4646). The UPOAA is currently law in 31 states. The proposed legislation would provide the following much-needed reforms and safeguards: 

  1. Offer a standardized form of power of attorney, leading to its greater use and acceptance.
  2. Allow for recovery of damages and attorney fees for a frivolous rejection of a power of attorney.
  3. Subject an agent who uses a power of attorney to exploit the principal to civil and criminal liability, including treble damages.
  4. Authorize a wide range of persons to come into probate court to seek removal of an exploitive agent; the list of people or entities to challenge an agent include a guardian, conservator, a person named as an advocate in a health care advance directive, an heir at law, or any beneficiary named in a trust, Adult Protective Services, or the personal representative named in a person’s will.

The Michigan House of Representatives also has several bills currently in committee that revise or amend Michigan’s Estates and Protected Individuals Code. House Bill 4909 would, among other things, mandate that the court can only appoint a professional guardian or professional conservator if the appointment is in the ward’s best interests or if there is no other person who is competent, suitable, and willing to serve in that fiduciary capacity. House Bills 4910 and 4911 describe the duties of a guardian or conservator and the process by which guardians or conservators can be appointed. House Bill 4912 outlines the circumstances under which a temporary conservator can be appointed, as well as the steps to removing a conservator or guardian. 

Please contact your local State Representative and Senator to support this legislation. 

Gavel And Striking Block Over Guardianship Law Book

Office of State Guardian Legislation

The Department of Attorney General is in support of legislation that will soon be introduced to create an Office of State Guardian (OSG). If created, the OSG would be overseen by a 14-member Board and run by an Executive Director, whose title would be State Guardian. The State Guardian would be tasked with providing both support and ensuring compliance of guardians and conservators, as well as funding for professional guardians who serve indigent protected individuals, including:

  • Running an Indigent Guardian Program.
  • Publication of educational materials that will assist lay guardians and conservators to help them better meet their fiduciary duties. 
  • Collection of data and statistics regarding the guardian and conservatorship systems which are reported to the Legislature and Supreme Court.
Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid Eligibility Renewals Resume

To prevent state-funded healthcare recipients from losing coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Medicaid agencies were required to continue healthcare coverage for all medical assistance programs even if a recipient’s eligibility changed. However, beginning in June of 2023, eligibility renewals officially began again. Some beneficiaries will be given passive renewals using existing data to determine eligibility. For those individuals and households, a notice of “no further action required” will be sent to them. However, if a Medicaid beneficiary cannot be passively renewed, a renewal packet will be mailed to them, which must be filled out, signed, and returned by the due date indicated with all requested documentation and proof.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Recommends Medicaid beneficiaries do the following:

  1. Make sure your address, phone number, and email address are up to date. You can also call your local MDHHS office. If you do not have an online account for MI Bridges to access your Medicaid case or report changes, visit their site to sign up for an account. You can also locate organizations that can help you by searching for community partners.
  2. Report any changes to your household or income. You can report changes online or by calling your local MDHHS office.
  3. If you get a renewal packet, be sure to fill it out, sign the forms, and return them by the due date with any proof needed. NOTE: If you do not complete and return the renewal, you may lose Medicaid coverage.

On its website, MDHHS has posted an eligibility notification timeline that shares information about the monthly renewal process. Michigan uses a 90-day renewal timeline that begins two months before a beneficiary’s renewal date and ends at the close of the renewal month.

Woman writing on a piece of paper sitting at a desk in front of a computer on the left. Elder Abuse Task Force Symposium wording on right.

EATF Symposium

Last year, the Elder Abuse Task Force hosted a virtual Symposium that focused on topics relevant to protecting Michigan's seniors. The symposium also featured a question-and-answer session following each topic. The symposium playlist is available on the Department of Attorney General's YouTube page.

Businessman is explaining works to officers while training together at the office

Training for Police and Prosecutors

In November of 2022, the Elder Abuse Task Force Subcommittee on Training Officer & Prosecutors (STOP) released A Guide to Investigation & Prosecution of Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation. The Guide includes multiple reference tools, including a description of factors to consider in determining whether an adult meets the legal definition of a “vulnerable adult,” and a checklist that can be used to collect relevant evidence during an investigation. The Guide also includes two detailed case studies, including police reports and sample questions for witnesses testifying in court. The case studies are based on real cases that have resulted in criminal convictions, although details have been fictionalized for purposes of publication. The Guide is available only to law enforcement and prosecutors and can be found on the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan’s (PAAM) website and on MiTrain.

In March of 2023, the STOP subcommittee offered a one-day training opportunity for law enforcement and prosecutors in Grand Blanc. Presenters included members of law enforcement, prosecutors and a certified fraud examiner. The subcommittee will be offering a similar training opportunity in Muskegon in August of 2023. The subcommittee is also in the process of producing a series of short presentations that will be available only to police and prosecutors. The first four presentations have already been posted on the PAAM and MiTrain websites.

The EATF website is frequently updated and has many resources regarding elder abuse. The website is also available in several languages.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, globe with purple awareness heart

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This year’s theme, according to the United Nations, was “Closing the Circle: Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Older Age Policy, Law, and Evidence-Based Responses.” On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Coordinated Community Response Coalition (CCRC) of Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties hosted the Elder Abuse Has No Borders Conference at Madonna University. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel gave a presentation at the event along with Cynthia Farrell, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Division of Adult Services.

“A very important part of my job is protecting Michigan residents from fraud and other forms of criminal activity and protecting our most vulnerable residents from that type of activity," said Nessel. “Unfortunately, older adults are often specifically targeted by bad actors, and this alone makes them more vulnerable to physical, emotional, and financial exploitation.”

MDHHS marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by soliciting proposals to prevent vulnerable adult abuse. The Bureau of Aging, Community Living and Supports within the MDHHS Behavioral and Physical Health and Aging Services Administration administers elder abuse awareness and prevention funding through the Prevent Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Exploitation, Neglect Today (PREVNT) initiative. The project seeks to implement tools and systems to detect and address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

“We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect our state’s growing population of aging adults,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Our Adult Protective Services team works hand-in-hand with public and mental health agencies, law enforcement, probate courts, the aging network, community groups, and the general public to investigate allegations of vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and exploitation.”

To Report:
855-444-3911
mi.gov/protectiveservices

State of Michigan Attorney General Seal

For Questions:
800-24-ABUSE (22873)
mi.gov/elderabuse