Reaching Into Our Communities Through Collaboration

By Brenda Jones, E-MDT Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan


Last year was tough on everyone! Although processes were somewhat slowed for the U.P. FAST E-MDT (Upper Peninsula Financial Abuse Specialists Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team), we continued to move forward. We are making strides toward creating a team that is committed to coordinating our efforts to serve and protect older and vulnerable adults in our communities from abuse and financial exploitation. Our goal is to create communities that are better able to recognize and respond to abuse and exploitation through education and outreach measures. To do this we need the right people at the table. We have succeeded in bringing those people together. Our team and community partners include:

  • Banks and Credit Unions
  • Behavioral and Mental Health
  • Community Service Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Law Enforcement (State and Local)
  • Libraries
  • Non-Profit Agencies
  • Prosecutor’s Offices
  • Specialists (Neuropsychologist, Delivery of services to the elderly, Accounting and Forensic Accounting)
  • Tribal Programs and Advocates
  • Universities
  • Victim’s Advocates

This is just the beginning. We truly want to represent the people that we serve, and because of this, we continue to reach out to agencies and organizations that can help us increase our reach into our communities and beyond.

One organization that has helped extend our reach into the community is the United Way of the EUP. Their programs serve communities across the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of United Way has answered the call for Elder Justice. They have chosen to continue the work of the UP-SCAN (Upper Peninsula Services Community Area Network) project, which has focused on the prevention of financial exploitation. The UP-SCAN project was started under a two-year grant obtained by Elder Law of Michigan and administered by Stephanie Woods, Empowerment Specialist. Although the grant time has ended, the program will continue under the auspices of the United Way and the RSVP.

But it does not end there. The U.P. FAST E-MDT, United Way, and the RSVP will partner to distribute and disperse educational materials regarding scams, fraud, elder abuse, and financial exploitation prevention throughout our communities and beyond. The United Way of the EUP has been a partner in the Elder Justice arena from the beginning. Their work previously focused on supporting the ongoing project, now they are taking an active lead.

I met with Raulaniesa Aranda, via Zoom, the CEO of the United Way of the EUP and Mackenzi Nottingham, the Program Director of RSVP, and asked them:

Why did you decide to incorporate UP-SCAN/Elder Justice project into your RSVP program?

Ms. Aranda explained it this way: “we live in a rural community, and a large part of that demographic is older and senior adults. The main goal of the United Way of the EUP is to make sure the residents of all ages in our communities thrive.” Given that 1 in 10 older adults have experienced some form of abuse (as many as five million older adults are abused each year nationwide) and the fact that only 1 in 14 abuse cases are ever  , The United Way of the EUP sees an overwhelming benefit to continuing the Elder Justice project.

Elder Abuse can occur without strong social support systems in place to keep us connected as we age. While anyone is potentially at risk of abuse, some factors can increase one’s risk of experiencing abuse:

  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to support services and community resources
  • Increased dependence on others

The United Way of the EUP can bridge that gap and provide a path to resiliency and stability for the EUP communities.

The RSVP is planning on putting a peer mentoring program in place. Senior volunteers will be trained to recognize and respond to isolation and loneliness, as well as possible elder abuse and financial exploitation. The RSVP administrators will use the UP-SCAN referral system to collaborate with the U.P. FAST EMDT  and to make community resource and service referrals as well.

Although frontline agencies and organizations may not have the time to develop a long-term relationship with older adults in the community, the RSVP Senior volunteer program is better suited to engender trust and make older adults feel comfortable. Having a mentor with similar age and experience(s) can increase a person’s comfort level and decrease barriers to discussing more sensitive issues. It also increases the social interactions for both the older adult and the volunteer and helps older adults know that they are heard and there is support system out there for them. As Ms. Aranda puts it, “the United way of the EUP fights for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in our community… we partner with other agencies and organizations to support the community and we have for 65 years.” The U.P. FAST E-MDT is looking forward to taking part in supporting our community through this collaboration.

Brenda Jones is an Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since December 2019. As an E-MDT Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan, Brenda works to develop an enhanced team of specialists and community members to address the issues of elder abuse/financial exploitation in the rural communities of Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan.