MAY is Mental Health Awareness Month

From Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference

Millions of Americans live with mental illness. But somehow, it's rarely talked about. Let us come together during this time and encourage our families, friends and colleagues to talk about mental wellness. Through understanding, education and awareness, we can break down the stigma and barriers that keep those who live with a mental illness silent. Let’s choose not to be silent. In Tennessee, 986,000 adults are living with a mental health condition, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experiences serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth ages 6-17 experiences a mental health disorder each year
  • 50 percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75      percent by age 24
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10-34 


DON'T BE SILENT!  Everyone goes through stressful situations, and being a caretaker is one of the most stressful jobs.  It's okay to seek out help or advice to help you get through the rough times.  

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (or NAMI) offers resources to individuals, organizations and companies in various mental health issues.  

Talk about your stressful situations with groups online at the link below.  

Dealing with Stress in Caring for Others

Help for Caregivers During COVID-19 Confinement

Being a caregiver is often a very stressful situation, especially when the patient doesn't want help.   Understanding how to manage your stress is vital in being effective with caring for others.  Quarantine and isolation only add to that stress.  Find help for dealing with being a caregiver at the link below.

elder abuse in tennessee



With only 1 in 10 cases reported, ELDER ABUSE is a growing crime, yet it often goes unnoticed and unaddressed.   It has been called a Silent Epidemic as it affects the elderly across all socio-economic divides.


What is Elder Abuse?

The term “Elder Abuse” is an all-purpose term that covers several types of abuse.  The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder abuse as "intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or 'trusted' individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. In many states, younger adults with disabilities may qualify for the same services and protections.  

TN District Attorney General Matthew Stowe


Over the past three years, Tennessee’s District Attorneys General have worked with lawmakers to craft better laws with tougher penalties to combat elder abuse. 

24th District’s D.A. Matthew Stowe and District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis  led the development of sweeping new legislation initiated by Tennessee’s Conference of District Attorneys General. 

Tennessee's Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act  was passed in three major sections which addressed Financial Abuse (2017), Neglect and Sexual Abuse/Exploitation (2018), and Physical and Psychological Abuse (2019)



Studies reveal that abuse of elders/vulnerable adults is often underreported due to shame or embarrassment. Unlike victims of random crimes, most perpetrators are known to their victims and may be family, caregivers or medical personnel. Because of the close relationships, victims are often too frightened to seek help.

 "The issue of Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse has been in the forefront for prosecutors throughout Tennessee  and has culminated in several new and updated laws which specifically address financial, physical and sexual exploitation."


tennessee's new elder and vulnerable abuse legislation

Over the past three years, Tennessee legislators, district attorneys and advocate groups have worked to produce a modernized collection of laws specifically tailored to address abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults. 

2017: The Senior Financial Protection & Securities Modernization Act was passed which better protects seniors (age 65 and older) and other vulnerable adults from financial fraud and exploitation by providing tools to financial organizations, such as Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Securities Division, banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, agents, representatives, and others in the securities industry. In addition to allowing for broader oversight of elderly client accounts, the new law provides for delays in disbursements up to 15 days if fraud is suspected. Civil penalties for financial fraud of elders have been doubled, and regulatory standards have been modernized.  

2018: The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018 updates current law pertaining to physical and sexual abuse of elders and vulnerable adults. This statute distinguishes physical and sexual abuse as felony offenses and increases its penalties and fines. The act of 2018 simplifies easier reporting of abuse by allowing for anonymous reports. 

2019: The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019brought enhanced and higher classified penalties to forms of abuse that result in physical or serious harm. An important new aspect of the law is that is widens the authority in seeking orders of protection for abused elders to conservators, agents/employees of the Commission on Aging and Disability, attorneys ad litem, as well as the elder adults themselves. 

Tennessee now requires that anyone who suspects abuse must report it, however you have the option remain anonymous. In an emergency, always call 911 first. 

Additionally, Tennessee has created an Abuse Registry where convicted abusers are now required to be registered. The database is available to the public online at 

To make a report to local and state authorities call Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366or make a report online at 

(Click the box at the bottom of the page and hit CONTINUE to go to the reporting form). 


D.A. Matthew Stowe on elder abuse

Tennessee State Capitol Building


Making significant changes in law takes a collective effort from many people.

So many people have worked hard to fine tune this comprehensive legislation.  

Below are my special thanks to key people who have worked with my committee in making Tennessee's elder and vulnerable adult communities safer.

-District Attorney General Matthew Stowe (TN-24)

Chairman, Elder Abuse Committee / TN District Attorneys Conference


Jerry Estes, Executive Director TN DAGC

Tennessee's District Attorneys General Conference

 Thanks to the leadership of the Tennessee District Attorneys Conference led by Executive Director, Jerry Estes, Tennessee’s lawmakers coordinated with District Attorneys in analyzing and targeting problems in current law from the advantage of those on the front line of fighting abuse. 

District Attorney Lisa Zavoginnais (TN-31)


A very special appreciation is extended to District Attorney Lisa Zavoginnais (TN-31) for her partnership in creating and driving this comprehensive initiative. 



Special recognition is extended to Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-TN-38) and State Sen. Mark Norris (R-TN-32) for their strident support within the General Assembly and sponsorship to enact these new protections for our most vulnerable in 2017 and 2018.