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New Cleveland Center Helps Victims of Elder Abuse

Rooms at the Elder Justice Center feature a bed and kitchenette. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]
A typical room at the Elder Justice Center at Eliza Bryant Village.

A Cleveland elder care center cut the ribbon Monday on a nine-bed residential wing built to serve older adults who are the victims of abuse or neglect.

The  Elder Justice Center at Eliza Bryant Village, in the Hough neighborhood, will serve adults aged 62 and older.

The idea for the center came after surveying people who live at Eliza Bryant or use the institution's social programs, said Danny Williams, Eliza Bryant's president and CEO.

"Upwards of 80 percent of [our] seniors expressed that they had been in some way abused, exposed to violence, some criminal victimization at some point in their lives," Williams said.

From there, he learned of the prevalence of elder abuse across the county and state: In 2019, there were about  16,000 reported cases of abuse in the state of Ohio, and about 3,000 cases in Cuyahoga County.

And that doesn't count the many cases that go unreported, Williams said.

Residents' stays at the new center will be an average of three months, said Eliza Bryant Village CEO Danny Williams. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]

"People are just afraid or ashamed," Williams said. "They're embarrassed to say that somebody in their family may not be treating them appropriately."

Social service agencies must refer residents to the center, but it's open to any Ohio resident. Currently, three of the nine rooms are occupied. Rooms feature beds, refrigerators and private bathrooms.

Construction costs totaled about $1 million, most of it from private foundations and the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Residents are expected to stay about three months, on average, as they get counselling, legal help and medical treatment.

Eliza Bryant resident Marcia Douglas — who is not a victim of abuse — said she hears tales of abuse from some of her neighbors, and she's happy they'll have a chance to get the help they need.

"They don't have anybody to speak up for them," Douglas said. "They don't have anybody to defend them. They really don't have people to come in and take care of their needs like they should."

Marcia Douglas, an Eliza Bryant Village resident who is not a victim of abuse, believes the center could help some of her neighbors. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]

In 2019, Eliza Bryant was on a list of four Northeast Ohio nursing homes considered troubled according to an assessment by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS continues to rate Eliza Bryant "much below average"overall. The ratings are based on quality measures, health inspections and staffing.

Williams said at the time that the ratings were based on old data, and that the center had "responded promptly" to previously reported problems.

Nationally, about one in 10 adults over age 60 are abused, neglected or financially exploited, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Justin Glanville is the deputy editor of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.