Grand Lake woman, 71, seeks options for help after claiming authorities botched case
Who to call
Grand County agencies contact information
• Grand County Adult Protective Services
• Grand County Sheriff’s Office
Emergency number: 911
Office number: 970-725-3343
• Grand County Rural Health Network
• Grand County Council on Aging
• Alpine Area Agency on Aging
• Northwest Center for Independence
Granby Office: 970-846-8038 or 970-846-8085
• Grand County Public Health
• Mind Springs Health
• Social Security Administration
Gayle Kimi Simon says she has been directly exposed to the many flaws she believes exist in Grand County’s legal system, which she claims range from failed police investigations to a system that does not adequately protect at-risk individuals.
It was Sept. 10, 2017 when Simon, a 71-year-old Asian-American woman living in Grand Lake, experienced an incident that she claims has had serious adverse impacts on her physical and mental health. She was a landlord and part-time resident in the county and found herself dealing with a tenant that ultimately turned, as she said, verbally and physically abusive. On that day, a tense verbal exchange occurred between Simon and her tenant. He wanted her to leave and called the police. When Simon was standing in the doorway, waiting for the police to arrive, the tenant, according to Simon’s report to police, repeatedly slammed the door on her foot and leg leaving her, a retired U.S. Army major, with injuries.
Hospital medical records from the same day indicated that X-rays of Simon’s ankle, foot, knee, hip and lower back had come out clear but that “it was felt” that Simon had strains and sprains of her right hip, knee, ankle and foot.
Simon’s story is a complex one.
Not only did she expect criminal charges to be brought against her alleged attacker, she had filed a restraining order against him that was ultimately denied, and had to go to court to evict him, where a judge ordered that no back rent or other damages would be awarded to her. Simon admitted that there was no formal lease agreement with her tenant, instead they relied on verbal agreements that her tenant would perform maintenance on the home in lieu of rental payments. But that deal wasn’t effective, according to Simon.
The matter appeared as more of a civil issue to authorities, according to the responding officer, Patrol Deputy Luke McDonald with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. He stated in a follow-up report that, during his time on the scene, he did not observe sufficient evidence to support an intentional criminal act of assault against Simon. He cleared the call with no report.
Simon has claimed that the latest statutes regarding mandatory reporting and exploitation of an at-risk individual, namely seniors 70 years and older, were not properly followed throughout the ordeal.
To this date, the Grand County District Attorney’s Office has declined to bring any criminal charges against Simon’s tenant, and the sheriff’s department considers it a closed case.
At least one of the problems with the story is clear: the situation between Simon and her tenant turned into a case of “he said-she said” and lacked enough factual basis or evidence to prove the case of assault and theft beyond a reasonable doubt in court. The latter is according to a letter drafted to Simon from Grand County District Attorney Brett Barkey.
Simon feels she was treated unjustly and wants to know how others who are considered at-risk can avoid failures of the local legal system like the ones she believes she encountered.
As she felt all options were exhausted, Simon approached the Grand County manager in hopes of setting up an informational workshop session with the appropriate entities to better understand how seniors and other at-risk individuals receive assistance in similar situations.
In April, the Grand County Board of Commissioners took up the issue of elder abuse, mandatory reporting and the services Grand County’s seniors can access during a workshop. The workshop featured presentations from over half-a-dozen county entities and nonprofit groups that provide services to citizens who qualify as at-risk elders.
The presentation, which lasted several hours and was well attended by local residents and representatives of the various agencies, initially delved in definitions and the legal requirements of mandatory reporting. According to the presentation, anyone who is a mandatory report is required by law to report instances of abuse or exploitation of an at-risk elder to Adult Protective Services within 24 hours.
The list of mandatory reporters is lengthy and includes health-care providers, first responders, social workers, psychologists, therapists, counselors, clergy and veterinarians, among many others.
Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin reviewed the role his department plays in protecting at-risk elders, how crimes against elders are handled and how reporting requirements are met.
Officials from Grand County Adult Protective Services outlined the history of the county’s program and detailed relevant state statutes. An official from the department discussed the mandatory reporting process and reporter requirements at length.
Officials from Grand County’s Rural Health Network, the Grand County Council on Aging, the Alpine Area Agency on Aging, Mind Springs Health, Grand County Public Health and the Northwest Center for Independence all also covered topics related to their offered services and their operations in the area.
Representatives from the Rural Health Network discussed their perceived needs for elders in Grand County including independent and assisted living, skilled nursing care, transportation services and mental healthcare among other topics.
“We provide a lot of services to seniors and at risk adults especially through our patient navigator program,” Sally Ryman, program director for the Rural Health Network, said. “We help them identify barriers to care.”
The Grand County Council on Aging discussed its primary areas of focus, transportation and education/social/recreational programs for seniors.
“We see ourselves as a conduit to adult protective services as well as law enforcement,” Lisa Jonas, Executive Director of Grand County Council on Aging, said.
The director of the Alpine Area Agency on Aging discussed that agency’s role covering five different regional counties and the liaison work they do with other agencies that provide services and support to elders. The official also spoke about the agency’s role as an ombudsman as overseers and advocates for seniors living in long-term care facilities.
Local and regional representatives of the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence talked about their work advocating for the empowerment of seniors, and those with disabilities as well as inclusion workshops and grievance mediation. The presentation from the Center for Independence also talked about consumer rights and responsibilities.
Ian Engle, executive director for Northwest Colorado Center for Independence said his agency focuses heavily on helping elderly or disabled individuals create independence for themselves and not merely ensuring such individuals will succeed.
“We believe in the dignity of risk and the right to fail,” Engle said. “When someone comes into the shop we want to help them be able to access (services). We don’t do that for them. We do it with them.”
Mind Springs Health and Grand County Public Health discussed the services available to elders within the county including crisis assessment and hotlines, psychiatric medical providers, senior nutrition, immunizations and home care services such as grocery shopping and light house keeping.
The meeting concluded with a significant question and answer session wherein local citizens asked officials to define certain topics, such as self-neglect. Other questions delved into ways to access services offered by regional agencies and how local agencies have dealt with specific instances of potential elder abuse.
Sky-Hi News Reporter Lance Maggart contributed to this story.
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