Goal of the partnership is to stop the abuse and help seniors recover.

According to Santa Barbara County Adult Protective Services, there are almost 1600 reports of elder abuse per year. Seniors who have been neglected or abused are often unable to get the help they need for a variety of reasons— many need social services in addition to legal services to fully recover. In response, Family Service Agency (FSA) is collaborating with the Legal Aid Foundation (LAF) to provide coordinated legal and social services to county residents age 60 and older who are victims of physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Funding has been provided through the Victim Legal Assistance Program of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County, the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Assistance Program will work collaboratively to ensure that senior and dependent adult victims of abuse and neglect in the County of Santa Barbara receive all appropriate and available assistance. Victim Witness will continue to operate a hotline to report senior abuse, investigate reported abuse, and bring criminal prosecutions against abusers. LAF attorneys will counsel and represent victims of abuse in non-criminal, legal matters. An FSA social worker will provide the necessary services to ensure that victims are safe and have the help they need to stabilize their lives. Call FSA at 1-805-965-1001 for more information.

“Elder abuse and neglect are complicated because they often involve sensitive relationships and situations,” said Executive Director Lisa Brabo. “By working together, we can better address each individual’s particular situation and help prevent future abuse.”

“Our joint goal is to help seniors who have been abused to stop the abuse, if it is still occurring, and to help seniors recover from the effects of the abuse,” said Molora Vadnais, LAF Executive Director.

FSA and LAF will continue to work closely with other agencies for the benefit of seniors, such as the District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Office, Adult Protective Services, Area Agency on Aging, Elder Abuse Prevention Council, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and the Department of Social Services. Through cross-training and mutual referrals, all seniors who seek and need help will be able to access it.

LAF is the only organization in the county that provides free legal representation for victims of crime. LAF staff attorneys assist senior and adult dependent victims of physical or mental abuse or financial fraud. Last year, LAF assisted 193 clients over the age of 60.

FSA provides mental health counseling and case management services to seniors and their caregivers. Last year, FSA assisted 162 seniors and caregivers with over 2,000 hours of counseling. It also operates the Long-Term Ombudsman program for the County, overseeing 1,500 residents at 150 care facilities.

Through bilingual staff, both agencies can address the needs of the Spanish-speaking population.