One case manager facilitated the reunion of 40-year-old, developmentally disabled twins who had been separated for 25 years. The same case manager led a team in relocating 20 people from an institution into community settings. Another case manager drove through the night to reach the bedside of a person who needed emergency surgery.
Working for the Office of Public Guardian is not a 9-5 job. The North Florida Office of Public Guardian is the court-appointed legal guardian for adults who are incapacitated, have no family or friends to assist them and no income or assets to pay for the services they need. Many of OPG’s clients are developmentally disabled, afflicted with dementia, mental illness, or suffering from brain trauma.
“We deal with adults and all our clients are mentally incapacitated or have some type of intellectual disability,” said Mary Callahan, program manager for the Office of Public Guardian in Tallahassee.
“People don’t know what we do.”
The OPG is a 501c3 organization and is only partially funded by the Statewide Public Guardianship Office. It relies on charitable contributions from the community to assist them in executing its mission.
From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, the agency holds its Sixth Annual Getaway with OPG designed to raise funds to meet the basic needs of those it serves. Money is used for: personal items, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, clothing, court filing fees, and burial policies, among other things. There will be food, fun, music, a silent auction, and volunteer opportunities to support the OPG year round. The goal is to raise $50,000.
The OPG’s 11-member staff serves 155 adults throughout 23 counties year round. The services include: financial management, consent for medical treatment, and appropriate residential choices. They’ve done it for the last 27 years.
“We serve over a third of the state of Florida,” Callahan said. “We are trying to get the word out about what we do. There are people out there who need help managing their finances and their daily living through our guardian program. Everything we do is through the courts. So many people we meet say ‘I’ve never heard of you.’”
A lot people confuse OPG with the Guardian ad Litem program, which deals mostly with children, Callahan said.
“We get a lot of referrals from guardian ad litem for children who are mentally incapacitated and are aging out and need guardianship,” she said.
OPG’s clients, which are called wards of the court, are vulnerable to exploitation by family members, friends, or neighbors who recognize that something’s wrong – but instead of helping the vulnerable adult, they help themselves to their money and other valuables.
More often than not, this person needs a guardian — a person who has been appointed by the court to act on behalf of a ward’s person, property, or both. Once a person is found to be incapacitated by a court, he is referred to as a ward of the court.
If you go
What: Office of Public Guardian 6th Annual. There will be food, fun, music, a silent auction, and vendor and volunteer opportunities available.
Where: Staybridge Suites, 1600 Summit Lake Drive, Tallahassee
When: Sunday from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are $10 general admission; $25 VIP admission.
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Office of Public Guardian host annual fundraiser