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Elder Abuse Reporting System – Wis. Stat. Ann. § 46.90

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Elder Abuse Reporting System

This law requires that every county in Wisconsin designate an agency as the elder-adult-at-risk agency, and then requires that these agencies establish an elder abuse reporting system.  These agencies are required to draft a memorandum of understanding identifying who is responsible for investigation of reports of abuse or neglect of elder adults at risk.  These agencies are responsible for receiving reports of such abuse and neglect, and for publicizing the existence of such a reporting system in the county.


This law makes employees of entities licensed by the department of health services, health care providers, social workers, professional counselors or therapists to report instances of such elder abuse and neglect. The law describes in detail when these reporting obligations are triggered.  The law further prohibits anyone from discharging or discriminating against any person who reports or any person about whom the report has been made.  In the case that someone makes a report to a state official, the state official is required to refer the report to the agency.  The law then gives detailed instructions on how to respond to complaints and to investigate the issue.  The law also lists the direct services that the agency can provide to the elders and the services for which the agency is required to refer the elder to other professionals.


The law states that departmental report forms of its response to an incident are confidential and may not be released by the agency or anyone else except in a few circumstances:

  • To the elder adult in question, the person suspected of the abuse, and the suspect's attorney
  • To the agency or entity from which assistance is requested
  • To a person/organization/agency that DHS designates to conduct management audits/program monitoring
  • To researchers, as long as certain specified requirements are met
  • Pursuant to a court order
  • To any agency/individual/attending physician providing services to the elder adult in question for purpose of diagnosis and treatment
  • To the guardian of the elder adult at risk or guardian of the suspected abuser
  • To law enforcement officials
  • To the person who made the report in his/her professional capacity

However, even if the requester is one of the above, departmental report forms may not be released if the elder-adult-at-risk agency determines that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the individual or the district attorney believes that disclosure would jeopardize criminal investigation or the agency determines that disclosure would jeopardize civil investigation.


All other related records are confidential as well, and can only be released in a few circumstances, upon request:

  • To the elder adult at risk
  • To the legal guardian/representative of the elder adult at risk
  • To law enforcement officials
  • To DHS or sheriff/police department or district attorney for death investigations
  • To a county department employee to determine whether alleged victim needs to be moved to another facility
  • To a court/state governmental agency for licensure or regulatory proceeding with respect to the alleged perpetrator
  • To DHS for management, monitoring, evaluation, billing purposes
  • To attorney/guardian ad litem of elder adult at risk to prepare for proceeding
  • To coroner/medical examiner/pathologist investigating the cause of an unusual death of an elder adult at risk
  • To staff members of protection and advocacy agency designated by DHS
  • To an agency legally responsible for supervision of the alleged perpetrator
  • To grand jury, if necessary for official business
  • Pursuant to court order


The law further requires that the name of the person who reports the incident must be deleted from any released record, and prohibits any person to whom the information is disclosed from further disclosing it.  The law then sets forth a detailed list of penalties for various kinds of violation of this law, including but not limited to those who obtain confidential information under false pretenses.

Current as of June 2015