WESTBROOK, Maine (2/2/15)--For years, the Maine Credit Union League has led the fight against elder abuse, especially on the front of financial abuse, and that work has recently made the organization a key resource for a national lawmaker.
In her new role as chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and her staff recently called on the league to gain insight about financial elder abuse.
Particularly, Collins and her staff wanted to know what was being done in the state to protect seniors from fraud.
"Maine's credit unions have a longstanding commitment to being vigilant in protecting senior members from financial exploitation and abuse," league President John Murphy told Collins' top two committee staffers during a conference call (Weekly Update Jan. 30). "Maine's credit unions have been leaders on this issue for a long time, and we recognize the importance of protecting the elderly from becoming victims."
Collins' staff members praised the efforts Maine's credit unions have undertaken in fighting elder abuse, including its significant role in creating Senior$afe, a three-part program to educate employees on identifying red flags.
The league, a founding member of the Maine Council on Elder Abuse, helped design the brochure for the program.
Collins also asked the league if it could provide examples of elder financial exploitation and how the Senior$afe program helped address and prevent the issue from occurring.
In response, the league offered stories from credit union staffers, including the story of an 88-year-old member who was being threatened and financially exploited by the fire chief in her community.
The credit union employee identified the problem, and the credit union worked with the State of Maine Adult Protection Services and deputy sheriff, playing a critical role in stopping the abuse.
Brenda Piecuch, vice president of compliance at PeoplesChoice CU, Saco, Maine, with $155 million in assets, called it the worst incident of elder abuse she had ever encountered.
Collins' staff members were appreciative of the real-life examples and feedback, and said they would be back in touch with the league as the senator prepares to host a hearing on the topic in coming months.
"This is an important issue--especially in Maine where we have such a high number of seniors--and credit unions have been active and early participants in bringing attention to this issue for many years," Murphy said. "We will continue to lead on this issue and assist in any way we can with (Collins') office and through our work with the Maine Council on Elder Abuse."