ALABAMA (WHNT) – Governor Kay Ivey has signed into law the nation’s first elder abuse registry. The law will require nursing homes and elder care vendors to provide information on people who have been convicted of abusing elders. 

Jo Holcombe said that her nightmare became a reality when she found out that the person assigned to be her mother’s caretaker started stealing her money and other valuable things. When her mom passed away in 2018, Holcombe took action. 

Alabama State representative Victor Gaston said that Holcombe told him that she wanted to do everything that she could to make sure that no one had to go through what she went through. She made it her mission to create an elderly abuse registry.  

Gaston said he immediately set the idea into motion. 

“She brought me the idea and I worked with DHR and those who draft legislation in the state house and the result is we have the law,” Gaston tells News 19. 

The law has been entitled Shirley’s Law. It’s named after Jo Holcombe’s mother Shirley Smith. Gaston sponsored the bill and it passed during the current legislative session. The law centers on the background checks of those who apply for a job in elderly care. 

“Certain service providers can query the Alabama protective abuse registry with regard to an employer and prospective employee to confirm if the individual has been convicted of a crime against an elderly or vulnerable adult. If an elder abuse protection order has been issued, the Department of Human Resources will find that the individual who has committed an act of abuse against an elder or vulnerable person,” said Sam Smith, direct of Adult Protective Services for DHR. 

Gaston says it was a two-year personal mission for Holcombe, who only thought about how others felt about how their elderly loved ones should be treated.  

“It’s one thing to pass a law and another thing to make it so that it can be enforced and simple enough so that it’s not too complex and the bill does respond to a need and passing it was a no-brainer and everybody supported it in the house and the senate,” Gaston said.  

According to DHR there were over 11,000 reports of elder abuse in 2021. Jo Holcombe says that she plans to take Shirley’s Law to Washington D.C. with hopes that more states will get onboard.