LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Leaders in La Crosse County say elder abuse is a growing problem in the community. As First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel explains, that’s why the county is working with community partners to fight elder abuse.

Elder abuse can come in many forms. It’s not just physical abuse but can also mean financial exploitation and online manipulation of elders. It’s a problem that leaders say continues to rise.

La Crosse County Adult Protective Services Supervisor, Zach Trebelhorn, says, “Elder abuse tends to be somewhat of a forgotten about social issue. In La Crosse County, we hover around 400 referrals through our Adult Protective Services unit annually, and that’s a number that’s been increasing as the years go on.”

To help combat the issue, several community members gathered Wednesday to talk about solutions. Including training for law enforcement and community organizations to work together.

Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources Project coordinator, Erika Deal, says, “We are coordinating a community response team. There is already a response team already set in place with La Crosse County. We are looking to include other agencies… expand awareness with the faith-based communities.”

Trebelhorn adds, “Over the next four years, we have a training team and the goal is to train 100% of the law enforcement officers within Lacrosse County on the dynamics, appropriate responses, red flags, and importance of collaboration.”

To help with that effort, La Crosse County was recently awarded the National Clearinghouse on Abuse In Later Life Grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. Trebelhorn explains, “This is a grant that focuses on increased education, enhancement of services and community partner collaboration in response to abuse in later life. It’s put on by the National Clearinghouse of Abuse in Later Life, NCALL, and work in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.”

The county hopes the grant and getting other organizations involved will help spread the word about elder abuse. Deal says, “We really want to address what role each system plays in creating awareness and giving direct service training and bringing in that community as elder awareness abuse should be recognized.”

La Crosse County is one of only four Wisconsin counties participating in this four-year grant cycle. Other counties include Dunn, Polk, and Walworth.