Ohio’s Adult Protective Services statutes have long been on the books, however, few changes have been implemented as those that became effective March 20, 2019. Healthcare providers, creditors, lending institutions, and other individuals that regularly interact with elderly citizens will need to abide by newly expanded mandatory reporting requirements, along with a few other provisions of note.1
These legislative changes come in the face of the 1-2 million elderly U.S. citizens that suffer from abuse annually.2 It is likely that these numbers are in fact much higher, as it is estimated that only 20% of abuse cases are ever reported. “By the year 2050, 20% of the country’s population is expected to be 65 years of age or older, and the fastest growing segment of the population are those older than 85 years of age.”2 This is often a quiet crime, with little data available to help create a solution to the growing problem.
The term “abuse”3 is defined as “the infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment, with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” When abuse is suspected to occur to an “adult”4 under Ohio law, the new law requires it to be reported by a specific list of mandatory reporters. An adult is defined as:
The suspicion of abuse includes “exploitation,” or the unlawful or improper act of a person using, in one or more transactions, an adult or an adult's resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, when the person obtained or exerted control over the adult or the adult's resources in any of the following ways:
The state now requires that each county’s Department of Job and Family Services prepare a memorandum of understanding related to responsibilities in cases of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation.6
Creating a much longer list of mandatory reporters, Ohio requires7 that the following persons having reasonable cause to believe that an adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited, or is in a condition which is the result of abuse, neglect, or exploitation immediately report such belief to the appropriate county Department of Job and Family Services:
If a mandatory reporter as defined above fails to report suspected abuse, they could face fines up to $500.8 This fine, however, does not protect a mandatory reporter from potential civil liability if there is a breach of this statutory duty, or of any negligence in failing to report the suspected abuse. The law does protect a reporter, however, so long as the report is not made in bad faith or with malicious purpose, or with immunity from civil or criminal liability.9 Reporters are also protected from discharge, demotion, transfer, any negative work performance evaluation, benefit/pay/work privilege reductions, or workplace retaliation by an employer.10
The required report can be submitted to the Department of Job and Family Services orally or in writing, but if made orally, it must be followed up in writing.11 The report must include the following details:
The Ohio Attorney General’s office maintains a team to assist with combating elder abuse. Formal abuse reports may be reported to them at 800-282-0515.12
For more information about mandatory reporting, or for assistance in establishing internal procedures for your organization, please contact Sara M. Costanzo.
Sara M. Costanzo is a shareholder who practices in multiple disciplines, with an emphasis on healthcare collections. She has been recognized in Ohio Super Lawyers’ list of Ohio Rising Stars and in Crain’s Cleveland Business’ list of Forty Under 40. Ms. Costanzo currently serves on the Ohio State Bar Association’s Healthcare Committee, and is a frequent presenter on healthcare related topics.