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Indiana Legal Services Expands LAVA Project To Support Older Hoosiers Suffering In Quiet Despair
Updated December 6, 2018 6:41 AM
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - According to STATS Indiana, in 2017, over one million people ages 65 and older called Indiana home. As Hoosiers continue to age, so does the need for statewide elder abuse education and prevention.

Quietly Suffering

When Hurricane Irma struck Florida, Hilda* had a decision to make--either stay put or evacuate. Fortunately, Hilda's daughter in Indiana was willing to take her in. But what began as a refuge quickly turned into a cage.

Seniors are often the victims of financial scams. Social Security payments, retirement savings accounts, even a person's Medicare coverage are all tempting targets. Sometimes the perpetrator is a stranger working a con, but often seniors are victims of someone they know: a friend or family member who takes advantage of a position of trust. Unsure where to find help, many cases go unreported.

In Indiana, the Adult Protective Services (APS) Program, administered by the Division of Aging of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, was established to investigate, report, and provide intervention and protection to vulnerable adults. APS reports that it received 38,594 calls for service in 2014 and investigated 9,602 cases as a result. APS also reported the number of financial exploitation cases reported in Indiana rose 33 percent over the past decade.

Finding Relief

Hilda's daughter took her car keys, credit cards, personal checks, and address book before locking her indoors for two months. Hilda knew no one, and no one knew her; if she didn't figure out a way to get help, she knew that no one would come looking.

Stories like Hilda's are all too familiar. Unsure where to turn, many seniors suffer quietly. In an effort to reach seniors, ILS partners with community organizations across the state who refer citizens in need of legal counsel. Through the Legal Assistance for Victimized Adults Project (LAVA), ILS is able to provide pathways to civil justice. LAVA is available to eligible Indiana residents who are endangered adults or seniors. Through the project, clients are able to receive quality legal representation in civil matters.

Legal representation could include:

  • Complaints for restitution
  • Compensatory and punitive damages
  • Specifics statutory causes of action for financial abuse or exploitation
  • Fraud or constructive fraud
  • Negligence
  • Rescinding of transactions
  • Conversion of assets stolen
Program Expansion

As time passed, Hilda was eventually able to sneak out of the home while her daughter was away. Her exploration around the neighborhood eventually led her to a law office where an attorney connected her with ILS.

In August, ILS was awarded $593,563 from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for the LAVA program. This funding will allow ILS to hire an additional attorney in southern Indiana to work alongside teams currently located in Indianapolis and South Bend. The grant began in October 2018 and is slated to run through October 2020. Personnel expansion will ensure ILS is able to meet current client demand while continuing to raise awareness and reach disabled and elder citizens in need of services.

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