A joint project of Project Guardianship and NYLAG’s LegalHealth Program
Project Guardianship was created by the Vera Institute of Justice in 2005 to act as court-appointed Article 81 guardians for individuals with who need help making decisions and who are predominantly low-income. Having served as legal guardian for over 500 people since its inception, in 2019 Project Guardianship conducted a comprehensive study and issued a report examining the need for Article 81 guardianship and decision support for New Yorkers with diminished capacity.
LegalHealth, a division of New York Legal Assistance Group, was started in 2001 to provide free legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers at hospitals and health clinics in New York. In 2019 LegalHealth issued a report that examined the need for additional legal services for its clients where diminished or absent capacity was a factor in the inability to obtain needed services and benefits, including the need for Article 81 guardianship. In 2020 LegalHealth started a pilot project to implement the findings of this needs assessment, including the provision of direct legal services and training of healthcare professionals around this issue.
These two organizations found in their respective studies that major gaps exist in services for low-income New Yorkers with diminished capacity as well as for their families. In an effort to address these gaps, Project Guardianship and LegalHealth are working together to organize a coalition to assist limited capacity New Yorkers. Our aim is to join with other organizations and stakeholders who regularly work with people with diminished capacity, including healthcare providers, non-profit organizations providing services to people who are aging or living with disabilities, legal aid providers, judges, and policymakers, among others, to communicate about the issues facing this population and the systems that serve them.
The Coalition will sponsor four webinar events in 2021, beginning with a panel of Article 81 guardianship judges from across New York City who will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their courts and the people who appear before them. The Coalition will also sponsor an event on guardianship in rural communities in New York State, as well as an event on guardianship in the context of disability rights and supported decision-making. Finally, the Coalition will host a discussion with national experts who focus on guardianship and guardianship reform.
It is our hope that through our efforts to share information that we will continue to identify service gaps, develop practical solutions, and draw attention to the need for reform at the state and federal level.
For a copy of Project Guardianship’s report, “Incapacitated, Indigent, and Alone: Meeting Guardianship and Decision Support Needs in New York”, please see here.
For a copy of LegalHealth’s report, “Helping Those Who Can No Longer Help Themselves: A Needs Assessment of Legal Services for Families of Adults Who Are Incapacitated”, please see here.
To sign up to learn more about the coalition, click here.