(a) The Legislature recognizes that elders and dependent adults may be subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that this state has a responsibility to protect these persons.
(b) The Legislature further recognizes that a significant number of these persons are elderly. The Legislature desires to direct special attention to the needs and problems of elderly persons, recognizing that these persons constitute a significant and identifiable segment of the population and that they are more subject to risks of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
(c) The Legislature further recognizes that a significant number of these persons have developmental disabilities and that mental and verbal limitations often leave them vulnerable to abuse and incapable of asking for help and protection.
(d) The Legislature recognizes that most elders and dependent adults who are at the greatest risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by their families or caretakers suffer physical impairments and other poor health that place them in a dependent and vulnerable position.
(e) The Legislature further recognizes that factors which contribute to abuse, neglect, or abandonment of elders and dependent adults are economic instability of the family, resentment of caretaker responsibilities, stress on the caretaker, and abuse by the caretaker of drugs or alcohol.
(f) The Legislature declares that this state shall foster and promote community services for the economic, social, and personal well-being of its citizens in order to protect those persons described in this section.
(g) The Legislature further declares that uniform state guidelines, which specify when county adult protective service agencies are to investigate allegations of abuse of elders and dependent adults and the appropriate role of local law enforcement is necessary in order to ensure that a minimum level of protection is provided to elders and dependent adults in each county.
(h) The Legislature further finds and declares that infirm elderly persons and dependent adults are a disadvantaged class, that cases of abuse of these persons are seldom prosecuted as criminal matters, and few civil cases are brought in connection with this abuse due to problems of proof, court delays, and the lack of incentives to prosecute these suits.
(i) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to provide that adult protective services agencies, local long-term care ombudsman programs, and local law enforcement agencies shall receive referrals or complaints from public or private agencies, from any mandated reporter submitting reports pursuant to Section 15630 , or from any other source having reasonable cause to know that the welfare of an elder or dependent adult is endangered, and shall take any actions considered necessary to protect the elder or dependent adult and correct the situation and ensure the individual's safety.
(j) It is the further intent of the Legislature in adding Article 8.5 (commencing with Section 15657 ) to this chapter to enable interested persons to engage attorneys to take up the cause of abused elderly persons and dependent adults.
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