|Judge Francis Doherty|
The answers to those questions were explored in an outreach event Wednesday presented by Judge Francis Doherty of the Second Judicial Court in Washoe County and her team to discuss “supported decision-making” as an alternative to adult guardianships.
Supported decision-making brings in a trusted person, or supporter, to help an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities with making choices about living arrangements, healthcare and employment, said Doherty.
The supporter “becomes the helper to co-decide what issues and challenges in health care should be made” yet does not take over or make the decisions for them, Doherty said.
“We don’t think disability is a bar in many cases to an individual still making their own decisions,” Doherty said.
Supported decision-making applies to disabled adults, as young as 18 with autism, and the elderly who are in early stage dementia, said Doherty.
“We are not trying to get rid of guardianships,” Doherty said. “We are trying to create alternatives for families.”
Second Judicial District Court Case Compliance Specialist Mallory Nelson explained that the outreach events in rural Nevada help “start a conversation about what guardianships are and other alternatives from least restrictive to more involved depending on an individual’s circumstances.”
Supported decision-making is increasingly recognized around the country, said Doherty, with Texas becoming the first state to implement the alternative into state law.
In Nevada, a power of attorney for people with intellectual or developmental challenges was recently added to other powers of attorney and durable powers of attorney for finances and healthcare, which allows for the supporter to be appointed, Doherty said.
“We think Nevada is a good state to recognize that independence is so critical for persons with a disability,” Doherty said, adding that families she’s met with in Carson City and Winnemucca are responding positively to the concept.
“The families want to help their family members,” Doherty said. “Not necessarily take away those decision-making rights.”
Ruby Mountain Resource Center Executive Director Rebecca Hepworth works with disabled adults who either may have a guardian or are resistant to being placed in a guardianship, and liked what she learned in the workshop.
“I think we need to find a way to get the information to families so they can make choices,” Hepworth said. “I believe the people who work for us are capable of doing more than they are allowed to do.”
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