by Rachel Brown, Montana Credit Unions for Community Development
The Elder Justice Coalition of Greater Billings was formed on March 23, 2010 when representatives from over 35 community organizations met to discuss elder exploitation and abuse. The coalition, now formally named P.E.P. (Partnerships for Elder Protection), developed a strategic plan and mission to prevent elder abuse through community partnerships that promote awareness, education, and intervention in order to eliminate vulnerability and isolation of the elderly and adults with disabilities.
To Big Sky Senior Services, who coordinated the initial creation of P.E.P, it was essential for P.E.P to exist because of Montana’s growing elderly population and the obstacles they face, “We as a community must be proactive in protecting our aging and disabled citizens from perpetrators,” explains Becky Stanek, Program Coordinator of P.E.P.
Members of P.E.P. represent a diverse number of community organizations including non-profits, the Billings Police Department, Adult Protective Services, financial institutions, and electric companies. Laurie Peterson-Yamamoto, a committee member with Adult Protective Services, believes the variety of organizations involved is one of the coalition’s biggest strengths, “People from all different walks of life are part of the coalition and everyone has unique strengths and can contribute in different ways to protect vulnerable people.”
P.E.P members meet monthly to receive updates from sub-committees, discuss P.E.P. current events, and learn about issues affecting the elderly and adults with disabilities through various presentations by community experts. Representatives from Adult Protective Services and the Prevention of Elder Abuse have educated P.E.P members at previous meetings. P.E.P sub-committees are responsible for planning fundraising events and developing new resources for community organizations that work with the elderly and disabled population.
Steady attendance at meetings, hardworking sub-committees, and dedicated members has allowed the new coalition to complete a Strategic Plan and organize a major fundraising event within two months of forming. Jessica Fehr from the U.S. Attorney’s Office echoed the sentiments of P.E.P members when she explained the importance of becoming a P.E.P member, “I joined the coalition to ensure that one of the most vulnerable populations, the elderly, obtained the protection and justice they are entitled to.”
Editor’s note: for more information on Partnerships for Elder Protection and other coalitions, please visit our local coalitions page.