M4A, Shelby County DHR launch Elder Justice Alliance

By ROBYN JAMES | Special to the Reporter

M4A has partnered with the Shelby County Department of Human Resources (DHR), elected officials, law enforcement, social service providers and other advocacy groups to officially launch the Elder Justice Alliance of Shelby County starting Sept. 1.

The purpose of the Elder Justice Alliance is to bring together a network of multi-disciplinary agencies and organizations as one strong force to increase coordination and collaboration among responders, service providers and other relevant stakeholders, while also improving the prevention, detection, reporting of and response to elder mistreatment.

The hope is that it will help deter elder abuse through community education and professional training, while giving support to older residents and caregivers.

“Our aging society is like a building. If the foundation and structure are strong, older adults can live their lives free from harm and worry. If the foundation is weak or the support beams unstable, then the people inside the building are not secure. Our social structure is not as strong as it should be, especially for older adults. We need social supports and reinforcements to ensure that we can all participate in society and live free of neglect and abuse as we age”, said Carolyn Fortner, M4A Executive Director.

M4A’s new 501c3 nonprofit organization, 4 ALL Foundation, has created the Center for Elder Justice and Advocacy located in Shelby County.

The new center in Columbiana will serve as Alabama’s Elder Justice Resource Center, provide direct support and assistance to older adults and their caregivers across the greater-Birmingham region, provide extensive training to professionals and members of local communities and eventually house an Adult and Caregiver Respite Program, as well as a temporary elder emergency shelter.

“The new Elder Justice Alliance and Center will be a trusted resource that seeks to improve long-term health, in addition to social and functional status,” said Shelby County DHR Director Kim Mashego. “It also will enhance autonomy and independence, while mitigating the risks of recurrent abuse so vulnerable adults can remain safe and independent in their local communities as they age.”

Fortner said the goal was to help educate children to care for their parents should that need become available.

“As a society, we do a lot to prepare people to become parents of children but little to prepare children to care for parents as they age, and the Elder Justice Alliance will work toward one common goal to help prepare families to provide care so our older residents can remain safe, independent and unharmed as they age,” Fortner said.