Legislation inspired by the 2017 wildfires from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would expand penalties for caregivers who abandon elders during emergencies was approved by the Assembly today on a unanimous vote and heads next to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a signature.
“Deserting the frail and elderly when disaster strikes is not acceptable and can’t be allowed to happen again,” Sen. Dodd said. “These vulnerable people must be protected, especially with the growing wildfire threat. My bill penalizes caretakers who shirk their responsibilities and encourages more people to do the right thing.”
Senate Bill 314 adds “abandonment” to the list of offenses eligible for enhanced civil remedies under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. It previously cleared the Senate on a unanimous vote. The governor has 12 days after it is transmitted to him to sign it.
About 150,000 California elders live in assisted living facilities. Many are not able to protect themselves during disasters due to dementia, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses and frail health. Their safety is entirely in the hands of facility owners, administrators and caregivers.
Department of Social Services officials last year placed the two Santa Rosa assisted living facilities on probation after investigations found they abandoned residents during the North Bay wildfires. At least 20 residents would have died had family members not arrived to rescue them before one of the facilities burned to the ground.
“As a family member of someone who was left behind during the Tubbs fire, I believe we can’t adopt this protection soon enough,” said Beth Steffy, whose mother, Alice Eurotas, 85, was among those left behind in the 2017 fire at Santa Rosa’s Villa Capri. “I appreciate so much what Sen. Dodd has done as well as other lawmakers concerned about the safety of seniors.”]]>