DECATUR-The governor signs legislation to better protect the elderly and disabled from abuse and exploitation. The act is supposed to expand protective services for disabled adults who live at home.
At the Community Home Environmental Learning Project, or CHELP, they've been investigating elder abuse for 27 years. Diane Drew oversees cases of elder abuse. But now with a new state law she'll be looking over different cases.
"We will also be looking at citizens 18 and older with a disability,"Drew says.
Before cases were handled by the inspector general.
"They only had five people statewide to investigate,"Drew says.
And as the Belleville News Democrat uncovered, it was not enough. The deaths of 53 severely disabled adults who lived at home were not investigated because they were ineligible for services.
At the Decatur-Macon County Senior Center, Director Leslie Stanberry says the act will be a big help.
"We do see a lot of disabled people under sixty who use our services who come in," Stanberry says.
Before the law passed if they got a call about abuse for someone under 60, "basically what we would have done would have done is say you need to call the police" Stanberry says.
Now they can refer the cases to CHELP.
" I definitely think it's going to be a good thing for our citizens with disabilities," says Drew.
More eyes to look over cases, more hands to help a vulnerable population.
At CHELP it means more training for some workers. They're already going through it.
The law also sets up a division to investigate suspicious deaths of disabled people.