By state Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks/Lancaster)
Most of us were shocked and saddened when we read the series of Reading Eagle articles detailing unconscionable acts of elder abuse. We were angered to read stories about senior citizens and other care-dependent individuals whose caretakers, through willful acts of neglect, allowed them to suffer and perish.
We know that there is evil in the world, but we do not want to think that evil things happen to people in our community who have no means of protecting themselves. While we are shocked at the atrocities, we feel helpless and hope that someone else will step in to advocate for those vulnerable individuals.
I truly appreciate that the Reading Eagle fulfilled its important role as a source of information for local residents. The newspaper brought attention to this issue and shined a spotlight on the victims. The readers in this area are fortunate to have a community newspaper committed to reporting on important issues like this one.
I knew something had to be done to fix Pennsylvania’s criminal law. Until now, Commonwealth law contained no provision authorizing law enforcement personnel to prosecute caretakers whose neglectful abuse led to the death of a care-dependent individual.
That is why I introduced a bill to close this unintentional legal loophole by empowering the Office of Attorney General to prosecute these cases. Through bipartisan work with my colleagues in the House and Senate, I was able to pass the bill out of the General Assembly and it was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf as Act 53 of 2018.
Now the attorney general’s team will take over. His office now has the tools they need to prosecute these tragic and horrific cases. If a caregiver neglects a care-dependent person to the point where he or she dies, the attorney general’s office will work to prosecute that criminal to the full extent of the law.
I hope this new law and the penalties that accompany it will serve as a deterrent to those who might otherwise consider neglecting a care-dependent person. We as a society must face and tackle this problem, which often takes place behind closed doors where most people never see what is happening.
In order to carry this out, law enforcement officials and I need the help of the citizens of Pennsylvania. The public can play an important role by reporting cases of potential abuse or neglect of care-dependent persons. Residents can contact the Office of Attorney General’s senior protection helpline by calling 866-623-2137.
It is sad to consider the abuse and neglect of care-dependent persons that takes place within our communities. I am very grateful to the Reading Eagle and other media outlets that are drawing attention to the victims of neglect and raising awareness about this issue. There can be no excuses. If we each fulfill our individual roles, we can combat this deadly threat.
Representative Jim Cox
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Daniel Massing