Barriers to access
New York State Mental Hygiene Law provides that where appropriate, the Court shall appoint a guardian to protect and promote the interests of persons with limitations that affect their ability to make decisions for themselves. However, our state does not have a statewide public guardian entity, nor does it invest in guardianship services at a level that can meet current or future demand.
Currently, a patchwork of non-profit providers and pro-bono attorneys provide services when a family member or private-pay guardian is not an option. This network is already stretched to capacity, leaving thousands without these needed supports.
Additionally, there is a growing population of older and disabled New Yorkers who have no family or friends available to address their caregiving needs.
Moreover, the courts have reported that the availability of guardians is limited for people who lack assets and do not have family or friends to serve as their guardians.
Invest $15 million in sustained funding that would comprehensively support guardianship services statewide.
Such investment would result in significant Medicaid costs savings statewide as guardians would work to prevent unnecessary institutionalization. Investing in guardianship services would also stimulate the economy in that effective guardians would work to secure the comprehensive benefits individuals would be entitled to that would drive their local economies, and potentially result in savings to the state through the realization of untapped federal disability, SSI and other benefits. Agencies could fully staff their programs, improving outcomes for our most vulnerable communities through homelessness/eviction prevention, mental health care and other needed supports. Courts would no longer have to struggle to meet their statutorily mandated duty to appoint guardians when the legal threshold has been met. Organizations would increase community outreach and education efforts to support lay guardians. A fully funded guardianship system is desperately needed to uplift our older and most marginalized residents.
For more information or to get involved, contact Azaleea Carlea, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Project Guardianship firstname.lastname@example.org.