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Nessel announces task force aimed at protecting vulnerable Michiganders

Attoney General Dana Nessel says elder abuse affects people of all backgrounds.

The governor’s office, Legislature, attorney general’s office and the Michigan Supreme Court are joining forces to try and prevent the abuse of vulnerable and elderly adults.

The National Council on Aging estimates one in ten older adults are victims of elder abuse in the United States. It can be physical abuse, keeping people isolated, and even theft.

At a press conference Monday, Nessel said elder abuse is a problem that transcends geography, religion, and race.

“The good Lord willing we’re all going to be elderly one day, right?” she said. “This affects every single one of us and that is why it is so incredibly important.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein is on the task force. He wants to make sure that the courts are properly overseeing these guardianship cases. People are assigned a guardian if they become wards of the state. The guardians help these vulnerable adults take care of their needs – which can range from helping them get dressed to paying their bills.

Bernstein said this is a relationship with a power imbalance, so the judges – which oversee guardianships – need to give these cases extra attention.

“You’ve got to really spend time. You cannot treat this like an assembly line, you cannot move through cases quickly,” Bernstein said.

There are nine initiatives the group plans to put into action right away. That includes limiting the number of people a guardian can be responsible for and adopting a standard investigation form for vulnerable adult investigations.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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