County Announces Launch Of Elder Justice Navigator Project

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, speaking on the steps of the Chautauqua County Courthouse discussing the launch of the Elder Justice Navigator Project in Chautauqua County. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

MAYVILLE — A new innovative pilot program will be starting in Chautauqua County to hopefully curb the abuse of elders.

On Wednesday, officials gathered on the steps of the Chautauqua County Courthouse to announce the launch of the Elder Justice Navigator Project.

The innovative pilot program is being paid for through a grant from the Administration for Community Living through the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and aims to increase awareness of elder abuse and exploitation while improving outcomes for older adults engaging with the courts who have experienced maltreatment. The navigator project provides education to the courts and community, and makes legal and community-based referrals for older adults.

Karen Nicolson, Center for the Elder Law and Justice chief executive officer, said only one in 20 cases of elder abuse is reported. She said the cases reported are so low because the perpetrator of the abuse is usually a family member or caregiver responsible for the safekeeping of the senior citizen.

“Elder abuse is an incredibly under-reported crime,” Nicolson said.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said her office receives calls from constituents everyday about crimes. She said the saddest ones involve senior citizens. She added the $360,000 federal grant will go toward providing safety to the elderly and will provide them with greater access to the court system.

“I look forward to this having positive results for our senior citizens,” she said.

George Borrello, county executive, said he is very pleased to have this new innovative program in the county, which will go hand-in-hand with several programs already implemented by the Chautauqua County Office For The Aging.

“If we help our senior citizens and those most vulnerable, that is our most important duty,” he said.

Jon Anderson, Chautauqua County deputy commissioner of social services, said Chautauqua County was one of only five recipients of the grant throughout the country and the only one in state. State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said the reason county officials received the grant is because of the several programs assisting the elderly already in place throughout Chautauqua County.

“We will have a program that will be successful,” he said.

The Center for Elder Law and Justice advocates for justice at all stages of life to ensure that clients may live independently and with dignity. The organization is a nonprofit civil legal services agency that provides full representation to older adults in the eight counties of Western New York and Seneca Nation of Indians and operates a Senior Legal Advice Helpline in three additional counties.