JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Holly Rehder, R- Sikeston, wants to make it easier to provide services to vulnerable adults.
The Health and Mental Health Policy Committee heard her bill, House Bill 1484, on Monday. The bill would allow prosecutors to establish “adult protection teams” for elderly, vulnerable or disabled adults.
Under the bill, local prosecutors could establish multidisciplinary teams with professionals like psychologists, law enforcement officers, guardians and financial professionals to handle specific cases of reports of abuse or exploitation.
This would streamline cases and prevent victims from having to relay the same information over and over, said Rehder, R-Sikeston.
A similar system is in place in Missouri for victims of child abuse.
Benjamin Miller, assistant prosecutor in Callaway County, spoke in support of the legislation. He has worked with the system for child abuse victims.
“It is a resource that has made our job in protecting victims so much easier,” Miller said. “One of the things you find is not that agencies duplicate resources, (but) they assume they’re going to duplicate resources and it causes inaction.”
“By having this body where the right hand knows what the left hand is doing at all times, it streamlines it so that pieces of evidence don’t slip through the cracks and it makes it so that the most vulnerable victims we have are protected,” he said.
A similar bill failed to pass last year. This amended version does not cover people in long-term care facilities, whose employees already face a set protocol for reporting suspected abuse and exploitation to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“We don’t want to have the Department of Health saying, ‘Oh, well. I thought the multidisciplinary team was doing this,’ and the multidisciplinary team saying, ‘I thought you guys were doing it,’ and then having this elderly person’s case fall through the cracks,” Rehder said.
The committee also voted to pass a bill that would decriminalize needle and syringe exchanges. House Bill 1486 also sponsored by Rehder, would exempt registered syringe exchange programs from drug paraphernalia laws.
“If you’re using a needle, getting a free one isn’t going to make you use a needle, you’re already using a needle,” Rehder said. “I haven’t seen any negative statistics about them.”
Drug users who use needle exchange programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Missouri has 13 counties in the top 220 at risk of infectious disease outbreaks from IV drugs, according to the CDC.
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