Dr. Laura Mosqueda
Dr. Laura Mosqueda received an award from U.S. Justice Department acknowledging the many successful UC Irvine programs designed to prevent abuse and neglect of the elderly. She says collaboration with community and civic partners makes it all possible. Steve Zylius / University Communications

The U.S. Department of Justice has honored Dr. Laura Mosqueda and UC Irvine’s Elder Abuse Forensic Center with a 2011 Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services. The center was among 10 organizations and individuals recognized for outstanding work on behalf of crime victims.

“We commend these individuals and service providers who, when faced with emerging challenges, seek out new ways to protect our communities and to more effectively assist and empower crime victims,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday.

Each year, the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime recognizes extraordinary individuals and programs whose work serves crime victims. The ceremony was a prelude to National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10-16.

Mosqueda and UCI’s geriatrics faculty and staff spearheaded the country’s first Elder Abuse Forensic Center in 2003. It aids victims of elder and dependent-adult abuse and brings together legal, medical, social services and law enforcement experts to better understand, identify and treat such abuse; help prevent it; and determine more efficient ways to successfully prosecute offenders.

The Orange County Elder Abuse Forensic Center has assessed more than 750 cases and is the model for three other centers in California and additional ones planned in New York, Virginia and Japan.

“We’re honored and proud to receive this award,” said Mosqueda, director of UCI’s geriatrics program, interim chair and professor of family medicine and Ronald Reagan Chair in Geriatrics. “It’s a tribute to our Orange County colleagues in social services, law enforcement and medical fields who work every day on behalf of abused and neglected elders.”

“The Archstone Foundation has been a major supporter since our very first efforts in this arena,” she noted. “We’re grateful to them and to the UniHealth Foundation for continued funding of our Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect.”

Nearly 2 million older Americans are abused each year, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Orange County’s law enforcement and social services agencies receive more than 8,000 reports annually. And for each incident reported, Mosqueda said, at least five more go unreported.

In addition to the Elder Abuse Forensic Center, UCI, public partners and foundations committed to justice for victims of elder abuse have collaborated on a range of projects to improve conditions for senior citizens – several of which are the first of their kind in the nation:

  • The Orange County Vulnerable Adult Specialist Team consists of geriatricians and neuropsychologists who provide in-home evaluation of seniors suspected of being abused.
  • The Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect offers medical, forensic and victim services to abused and neglected seniors, as well as training, research and technical assistance to law enforcement and social services agencies statewide.
  • The Elder Abuse Training Institute is devoted to educating legal, medical, social services, law enforcement and government personnel about all aspects of elder abuse.