New Hampshire Legal Assistance

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Governor Vetoes Elder Protection Bill

Posted Jul 23, 2019

Elder, disability and justice advocates dismayed by Governor Sununu’s veto of HB 696 – Will continue to fight for protections of vulnerable adults


July 23, 2019

For Immediate Release:

CONCORD, NH – On July 19, 2019, Governor Sununu vetoed HB 696, common sense legislation to better protect New Hampshire’s older and disabled adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation. The bill was the product of bi-partisan compromise, and the stakeholders who have championed this bill are extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed this important legislation. 


HB 696 expands our current protective order laws to allow vulnerable adults (a person who is unable due to a physical, mental or emotional impairment to manage their own affairs or delegate responsibility to a responsible caregiver) to obtain a protective order to get immediate relief from abuse, neglect or exploitation. Some of the relief they can seek includes freezing the assets of an abuser and prohibiting the abuser from taking any of the victims’ property. Such relief is not currently available under existing law. Gary Titus, whose father was a victim of financial exploitation says:


“This bill is a wonderful addition to protecting the elderly. I wish that the bill had been in effect earlier to stop the exploitation that my father experienced. It is very disappointing that this important bill has been vetoed. Everyone that has an aging parent should be concerned.”


Ryan Donnelly, Regional Advocacy Facilitator for Granite State Independent Living says:

“Granite State Independent Living is a strong supporter of House Bill 696. In addition to defending older adults, the protective orders as outlined in this important legislation will also help to safeguard people with disabilities from abuse and exploitation. We are saddened that we will not have the ability to protect vulnerable Granite Staters from harm as this bill would have allowed.”


Detective Rochelle L. Jones, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Portsmouth Police
Department says:

“As the department Senior Services liaison, I work with our senior population on a daily basis, and regularly investigate cases of financial exploitation and elder abuse. One of our biggest hurdles is the underreporting of these crimes because victims feel embarrassed, are afraid they will not be believed, supported, or in some circumstances will be subjected to further abuse. I understand the importance and need for the enforcement of the protections contained in HB 696. The bill is an essential new tool to help strengthen our state’s response to this ever-growing problem. It is our duty as a community, to protect those, who cannot protect themselves. Unfortunately, without the passage of HB 696, it will be more difficult for us to protect some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens”


Douglas McNutt, Associate State Director of AARP-NH says:

“At AARP we know that financial exploitation is a major concern of our members. When someone has been financially exploited their money is gone and it is very difficult to get it back. This means that the resources the person was depending on are gone and this often leads to the victim needing to rely on public assistance. As this bill provides a mechanism to quickly stop the abuse, HB 696 will be a significant tool to protect against financial exploitation and preserve people’s independence. Proponents of HB 696 had proposed working with other interested groups and the courts to educate them about the new protective order legislated by HB 696. Such outreach, plus the inclusion of clear language on pre-printed court forms, would have maximized the utility of this new law for those vulnerable adults needing protection, without jeopardizing any of the protections that have protected countless victims of domestic violence in New Hampshire. AARP is very disheartened that we are unable to implement the important protections provided under HB 696 and are instead leaving vulnerable adults at risk


Cheryl Steinberg is Director of the Senior Law Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance and

member of the New Hampshire Alliance for Healthy Aging. She says:


“Elder abuse and exploitation are major problems in the Granite State. New Hampshire has the second-oldest population in the country. This significant aging of our state has resulted in increased incidence of elder financial exploitation. It is critical that elder financial exploitation victims have a mechanism to stop the exploitation quickly – often once money and property are lost, they are impossible to recover. HB 696 is the right solution. It provides a user-friendly process for older and vulnerable adults to seek immediate relief from financial exploitation and other forms of abuse. The argument that HB 696 places victims of domestic violence at risk is totally unfounded. NHLA has the busiest domestic violence protective order practice in the state; our deep and sustained commitment to serving domestic violence survivors goes back decades. We have firsthand knowledge of what happens at the court clerk’s window and in the courtroom. It’s shameful to leave vulnerable adults without protections they need based on groundless criticism rather than day-to-day expertise representing domestic violence survivors.”


Heather Carroll, Manager of Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, MA/NH Chapter,
says:


“With 25,000 Granite Staters fighting Alzheimer’s disease every day the vulnerability of this population is compounded by the lack of a trained direct care workforce. This places individuals with dementia at a high risk of abuse and financial exploitation. HB 696 puts much needed protections in place to safeguard vulnerable adults from physical and financial harm. The Alzheimer’s Association is disappointed that years of hard work, compromise, and advocates calling for change has once again led to a missed opportunity to make New Hampshire a leader in the country for protecting vulnerable adults and will instead have them remain at risk of harm.” 


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For more information:
Cheryl Steinberg
Senior Law Project Director, NH Legal Assistance
csteinberg@nhla.org
603-206-2210