The Union County Prosecutor’s Office is joining forces with the Union County Human Relations Commission to host a forum on elder abuse prevention as part of a continuing series of public events presented as part of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s 21-County, 21st-Century Community Policing Project, according to acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Commission Co-Chairs Mark Spivey and Jo Ann Hamilton.

The forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at Union Public Library, 1980 Morris Avenue in Union. Admission is free, and citizens of all ages, caregivers, as well as local representatives of social service agencies and other organizations serving seniors, are encouraged to attend.  

A panel of subject matter experts will serve as the centerpiece of the forum, with Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit Supervisor Melissa Spagnoli moderating. Panel participants will also include New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Outreach Director Melanie Hazim, New Jersey Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Detective Danielle Han, Union County Division on Aging and Disability Resource Connection Director Frances Benson, and Peter Jacob, LSW, of Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey, which is co-sponsoring the forum along with the Union Public Library. Jacob is also the Program Manager for Project CEASE: Combatting Elder Abuse through Services and Education, developed by the Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ to promote education about elder abuse. Also appearing on the panel will be Prosecutor’s Office Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Cronin and Detective Dennis Donovan, both of whom have years of experience investigating and prosecuting incidents of elder abuse.

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“Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has shined a light on elder abuse here in New Jersey. Often, victims of these heinous crimes suffer in silence. When law enforcement, service providers, and community leaders join together to publicly discuss prevention of elder abuse crimes, we break that silence,” said Ruotolo.

“This program is designed to provide inspirational and interactive dialogue to identify issues, strategies, and resources to protect our senior citizens from the debilitating results of elder abuse, which can range from financial loss to physical and emotional injury, pain, anguish, and even death,” Hamilton added.

Elder abuse can present in the form of physical, emotional, psychological, and/or sexual abuse, and it can also feature patterns of exploitation, neglect, confinement, and/or abandonment, according to the National Council on Aging, which reports that while 1 in 10 American adults age 60 or over have experienced such abuse, it is estimated that only 1 in every 14 cases is actually reported to authorities. Perpetrators can include children, other family members, and spouses, as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other facilities.

Light refreshments will be served at the forum. Free parking is available, and the facility is wheelchair-accessible. Pre-registration is requested, but not required; register online at www.ucnj.org/uchrc, or for more information, please call 908-527-4621.