Friday, July 14, 2017

Panel fields input on adult guardianship system, plans Santa Fe meeting Friday

A commission tasked with studying the state’s guardianship system for adults who lack the capacity to make decisions about their own care and financial management has been gathering public input from around the state on how courts can improve the way they handle these sensitive cases.

A legal guardianship — usually for an elderly person, or a person with mental illness or a developmental disability — removes some of a person’s rights and often involves family disputes.

State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino D-Albuquerque, one member of the commission, said the panel has heard about several frustrations that family members and others face while trying to navigate the guardianship system. One of the main issues raised so far, he said, is that confidentiality in the cases — aimed at protecting the privacy of people with guardians — makes it difficult for family members to get information about how a case is proceeding or the care of a loved one.

The 16-member New Mexico Adult Guardianship Study Commission, appointed in April, will hold a public meeting Friday in Santa Fe — its fourth in the state but its first in the city — to collect comments from local people on how to overhaul the system.

The commission is scheduled to give an initial report to the state Supreme Court in October.

Ortiz y Pino said some of the concerns raised about the guardianship system involve procedural barriers and delays. For instance, he said, court-appointed guardians are required to file annual reports disclosing fees and other information, but the court does not have a system in place for ensuring the reports are filed and that the information in them is accurate.

And, he said, hospital representatives in Alamogordo told the panel that when they petition the court to appoint a legal guardian for a patient who cannot make medical or financial decisions, it can take up to two months for a hearing to be set.

The commission also will examine the use of mediation to try to solve some issues before a case goes to court, Ortiz y Pino said.

Right now, he said, mediation is optional, not mandatory.

Commission members Tim Gardner, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights New Mexico, said his organization opposes guardianship petitions on behalf of people with disabilities who don’t want to give up all of their decision-making power and still have the ability to make some decisions for themselves.

For example, he said, some people are able to make decisions about health care or housing, but not financial management.

Other people, he said, might be mentally capable of making decisions for themselves, but don’t have the communication skills to voice their wishes.

“So they get put into guardianships that seem inappropriate,” Gardner said.

He proposes examining new approaches to guardianship petitions that give people involved more say and creating a system that allows for limited guardianships, which would provide safeguards but also protect a person’s independence, he said.

“Not to say we don’t think there is a role for guardianships,” Gardner said. “But we have found there are many cases of folks put into guardianship petition where there could be less invasive alternatives put into place.”

Patricia Galindo, a staff attorney for the state Administrative Office of the Courts and vice chairwoman of the commission, said the state has made changes to the way guardianship cases are tracked.

Officials hope to examine the first full year of data available under the new system at Friday’s meeting, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 317 at the Capitol.

Full Article & Source:
Panel fields input on adult guardianship system, plans Santa Fe meeting Friday

1 comment:

Donna said...

I hope the panel gets down to business and gets things done.