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Adult guardianship programs continue to operate with little funding

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Courts around Indiana have started their own guardianship programs based on the Lake County model program in Allen, Elkhart, Lawrence, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, and Vanderburgh counties.

And while state funding has since dried up for the Indiana Adult Guardianship Services Project that started in 2008, the only program that has been put on hold is the one in Tippecanoe County, which ended in June because of lack of funds.

However that program, said Becky Pryor, project coordinator of the statewide program, could resume if there was funding again.
 

Becky Pryor Pryor

While some counties already have existing guardianship programs for adults, the main differences between the existing programs and the new programs are there would be volunteers acting as guardians – some of the existing programs had staff members acting as guardians; stakeholders would work together instead of only focusing on age or particular disabilities; and most communities have been able to raise funds for their programs in addition to initial state funding.

For instance, Elkhart County’s program is a consortium of existing providers who are recruiting their first volunteer class.

Cary Kelsey, assistant to the president of ADEC Inc. of Elkhart County, an organization to assist people with developmental disabilities, said she could see the benefit to adding trained volunteer guardians to expand what her organization has been doing for many years with paid staff.

Kelsey has been working with, among others, Pam Huffer, director of advocacy for REAL Services based in South Bend. Huffer said her organization had been using volunteers in other counties, but she looked forward to expanding the organization’s outreach with volunteer guardians in Elkhart County.

In Vanderburgh County, a new non-profit organization was created from stakeholder meetings in that community. Guardianship Services of Southwestern Indiana Inc. was incorporated in 2009 and received 501c3 status in June.

Arin Norris, executive director, said the first training was completed in July using the model from another pilot program, Lawrence County Adult Guardianship Services.

Like many of the other trainings, local professionals presented various subjects to the volunteers.

“Topics included mental health issues, dealing with difficult people, an Alzheimer’s role playing activity, a panel of hospice nurses, an introduction to Bridges Out of Poverty, and communication training,” Norris said via e-mail.

That organization has also received support from Vanderburgh Superior Judge Brett J. Niemeier, who, Norris said, has offered the support of his court, including “in-kind donations, such as office space, use of a computer and a telephone line. Judge Niemeier wants to ensure that all incapacitated adults in Vanderburgh County have a willing and suitable guardian.”

Allen Superior Judge David Avery has also been supportive of the project in his respective county.

That county’s program is run by the Volunteer Lawyers Program of Northeast Indiana Inc., the District 3 pro bono organization. While it is unclear how Indiana on Lawyer Trust Accounts funding will affect pro bono districts around the state for 2011, including this program, and even though there is no guarantee of state funding like there was in the beginning, Judge Avery is optimistic that it will continue in some fashion thanks to the partnerships that have formed.

In Allen County, he said, the council includes the adult protective services division of the prosecutor’s office, nursing home representatives, hospital representatives, and others who could help address what the local needs are and the most effective way to address them. This is typical of the other counties.

Michele M. Wagner, director of Guardianship Services at the Volunteer Lawyer Program, said she was unaware of the need until the program started accepting referrals in 2008.

“The waiting list was astronomical,” she said. “We stopped counting after we reached around the 80s.”

She said VLP has helped with a total of 51 guardianships. She added 21 cases still have representation, but without funding they can’t take any more at this time.

“The need is just overwhelming,” she said. “About 80 percent is from the developmentally disabled population, and a lot of those cases have dual diagnoses that include mental illness. The majority used to be in state centers for people with developmental disabilities who are now living in the community. … It’s often hard to find the best situations for them. We tried a little bit of everything with the 51 cases we had.”

The pilot program in St. Joseph County, said Dan Harshman, co-executive director of the Guardianship Consortium of St. Joseph County, has “identified two major areas of need – people being discharged from local hospitals and people with mental illness. Our first effort will be to assist the hospitals with the need they have when people don’t have families to help determine if they should have a procedure or if they should leave the hospital.”

He added the organization is also working to create educational materials for anyone who is willing to be a guardian. Other counties are also working on educational material for the community, including guardians who are family members.

Harshman also noted that his county’s program has been working with the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic, including the other co-executive director of the St. Joseph County program, Michael Jenuwine, a lawyer and a clinical psychologist, who has been a key player in the county’s project.

Jenuwine started a study about adult guardianships after Pryor had asked him. He said all guardianships receive the same code from the courts, so paguardian maprt of his work was to look over 1,000 cases from 15 different counties that were filed from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008.

Of the cases he looked at, he said the youngest person was 17, the oldest was 102. Most of the cases involved people older than 65, with dementia being the most common issue. He added that most of the people in the cases were either at the younger end, between 18 to 20 years old, or around the mid-60s.

While looking at the cases, he also found the ward was often not present in court, and there was often no diagnosis from a physician. Typically a family member would describe the ward’s issues or there would be a physician’s note that the person needed a guardian but no further explanation.

Overall, he said, “A whole lot of things could be better.”

His students have also called clerks offices in every court around the state that would possibly handle guardianships for adults to survey them about their observations.

“My hope is this leads to some reform to tighten the laws we have, get resources to the courts to make sure they can have better accounting systems for adult guardianships,” he said.

Pryor added that many hope Jenuwine’s research, as well as input from stakeholders around the state who continue to meet, will influence the state regarding future funding for these kinds of programs.

In addition to the pilot programs, Wayne and Montgomery counties have expressed an interest in creating a local program to Pryor. In Marion County, a pilot program is in the works for Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis.

She and others said lawyers could give pro bono hours or financial support if they want to help. She suggested they contact their local organizations or her directly at iagsproject@yahoo.com.•
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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