Protect elderly Ohioans

Older Ohioans know enough to recognize a useless government feel-good program when they see it. Let us hope Buckeye State residents of all ages realize the state needs to do more than provide token funding to curb abuse of the elderly.

Reports that elderly people are being abused have increased dramatically. They are up by about 60 percent during the past 20 years.

A total of 14,646 complaints about abuse, neglect or exploitation of older people were received statewide during the year that ended June 30.

About half those reports involved “self-neglect,” a category taking in a variety of problems some elderly people have taking care of themselves. That can be as great a threat to their safety as if someone else was abusing or neglecting them.

Adult protective services in the state are handled by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. But that agency’s resources are limited.

Under the current budget, the state provides counties just $500,000 a year for programs to safeguard the elderly. More than half the counties receive less than $3,000 a year.

That does not go far. That level of funding, like so many government programs, seems more like an effort to make people feel good about what the state is doing than a genuine recognition of the problem.

Advocates of a plan to increase state funding to $10 million point out it would be the largest amount Ohio ever has put into adult protective services. But even that works out to less than $6 for each of the state’s 1,712,480 residents 65 years of age or older.

It has been suggested legislators should increase funding even more, to $20 million. That certainly is a lot of money. Providing it would require cuts elsewhere in the budget.

But one of the most important things a society does is take care of those unable to safeguard themselves. Abused, neglected and exploited older Ohioans often fall into that category. Legislators and Gov. John Kasich should increase the funding to $20 million.