Elder and Disabled Persons Protection Unit
John McEvoy, Chief
District Attorney Ryan established MDAO’s Elder and Disabled Persons Protection Unit and served as its Chief. The Unit’s core mission remains one of her top priorities. The Elder/Disabled Unit is a team of prosecutors and victim witness advocates, trained in the investigation and prosecution of physical and financial abuse against the elderly and the disabled. An elder adult is defined as anyone over the age of 60. A disabled adult is anyone over the age of 18 who has an intellectual disability or who is otherwise mentally or physically disabled such that he or she is wholly or partially dependent on others to meet daily living needs.
Abuse of the elderly and of disabled persons can be physical, emotional, verbal or financial. Abuse can also involve failure by a caregiver to satisfy an elderly or disabled person’s basic needs or to protect him or her from harm. The person inflicting the abuse may be a spouse, family member, friend, caregiver or a stranger. (“Self-abuse” occurs when a senior or disabled person is living alone and isn’t able to properly care for himself or herself.)
In Massachusetts, there are special laws and enhanced penalties designed to give added protections and prevent crimes against elderly and disabled persons. Help is available from every local police department. All departments have specially trained officers who focus on abuse of elderly and disabled persons who can respond to any situation. Help is also available from Elder Services Agencies and Disabled Persons Services Agencies throughout the county. All allegations of abuse, whether received from an agency or from a police department, will be investigated by MDAO.
In addition to responding to and investigating all instances of abuse and neglect of disabled and elderly persons, District Attorney Ryan strives to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable citizens by pulling together agencies and providers and building partnerships:
- As Chief of the Elder/Disabled Unit, District Attorney Ryan spearheaded the LEAPS (Leaders in Abuse Prevention) Initiative. Members of the LEAPS program work to identify seniors who may be the subject of abuse or who are living in at-risk situations, and coordinate proper care and services. Trainings and information sessions assure that all members are up-to-date on proper techniques and strategies to protect elderly persons.
- District Attorney Ryan also created the SPEERS (Serving & Protecting Every Elder Resident) Initiative that works to serve elders by forming a partnership with long term independent and assisted living facilities to ensure that those residents receive services and protective benefits that they may not otherwise be aware of.
District Attorney Ryan coordinates the Middlesex Disabled Persons Protection Task Force. Law enforcement personnel, agency investigators, and staff from service providers from across the county meet quarterly to integrate their efforts and promote best practices and protocols in investigating and prosecuting cases involving abuse of disabled persons.
For more information, please read our publication "Protecting Our Elders", a guide on preventing and responding to elder abuse and neglect.