Columbia lawyer seeks to fight abuse of elderly

December 29, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

A new hot line has opened to take reports of suspected abuse and neglect of the elderly.

The hot line is a project of Columbia resident and lawyer Charles Jerome Ware, and the Rev. John L. Wright, of the First Baptist Church of Guilford.

Mr. Ware said he became interested in the issue of abuse of the elderly through his work as legal counsel for the Maryland State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which develops leadership and political programs. Through that job, he often gets phone calls and letters complaining about problems in the community.

"It used to be the thing I heard a lot about was police brutality. Now the thing I hear about often is incidents of elder abuse," said Mr. Ware, who specializes in civil litigation and criminal defense.

He said he gets about five calls a week about suspected incidents of abuse or neglect of the elderly.

The complaints include physical, emotional, verbal and financial abuse. Most often it is a neighbor or friend who calls to complain that the person needs assistance.

Mr. Ware and Mr. Wright say that callers to the (410) 740-5699 hot-line number will be able to report suspected neglect or abuse. Mr. Ware and Mr. Wright, president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, will then forward the information to the appropriate government agency for investigation. Callers will asked their name and contact phone numbers so authorities can follow up on the complaint.

"We feel the hot line is needed because people have no idea where to turn to tell someone about elder abuse," said Mr. Ware. "The government bureaucracy scares people and so they don't bother with notifying anyone. We want to make the reporting as simple as possible."

For now, the hot line is intended for Howard County area residents. But Mr. Ware, a former Justice Department lawyer, said he'd like to set up a toll free phone line so people statewide could report abuse. He also is lining up volunteers to answer the phone line. For now, his law office receptionist will handle calls Monday through Friday.

County and state government administrators who work in the area of senior services say they had little knowledge of Mr. Ware's effort to establish the hot line, but planned to contact him to get additional information about the project.

The service will be free. "The hot line may be a little redundant to what the state offers now," said Linda Zumbrun, assistant director for adult protective services in Howard County. "Others have asked us about this hot line and we're attempting to look into it." The Adult Protective Services division of the county Department of Social Services is charged with investigating complaints of abuse and neglect of people 65 and under. The Department of Human Resources is charged with investigating such complaints for those 65 and older. Neither department operates a 24-hour staff service, but complaints can be logged after hours with local police who in an emergency situation will notify an on-call social worker, said Ms. Zumbrun.

The county number is 313-7250.

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