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9NEWS investigation inspires Colorado bill to protect elderly

The bill, in its current introduced form, would make the crimes a felony.

DENVER - A 9NEWS investigation into at-risk adults stuck in hospitals has inspired a Colorado lawmaker to draft new legislation.  

Colorado Senator Jessie Danielson (D-Jefferson County) has introduced a bill that would criminalize the abandonment and confinement of at-risk adults and elderly. The bill, in its current introduced form, would make the crimes a felony. 

“This new bill is about protecting senior citizens and people with disabilities from some really horrific treatment,” Senator Danielson said. “Currently, law enforcement doesn’t have the tools they need to crack down on this kind of abuse.” 

Danielson said she was inspired by the 9Wants to Know investigation called STRANDED which found on any given day in Denver, there are dozens of at-risk adults stuck in hospitals because they’ve been abandoned by their caretakers.  

As part of the investigation, 9Wants to Know profiled the story of Jerry Ellingsen, a man with Alzheimer's Disease who was sent on a one-way flight to Denver after he was abandoned by his family. Ellingsen then spent six-months alone in a local hospital because nobody would pick him up. 

RELATED | Man with Alzheimer’s sent on one-way flight to Denver among scores of patients stranded in hospitals 

“When I see individuals suffering like this, it’s up to us to come here to the Capitol and pass some measures to protect some of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens,” Danielson said.

Another bill that would help establish a guardianship program for “unfriended” at-risk adults is also making its way through the Capitol. Lawmakers cited the 9NEWS investigation during their discussions about the currently defunct Office of Public Guardianship. The new bill could potentially fund the office that would help establish guardians for at-risk adults. 

RELATED | 9NEWS investigation inspires lawmakers to help at-risk adults

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