The Administration for Community Living recently announced grant awards totaling over $1.2 million to help older adults at risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation gain access to quality legal services.
The Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems (Model Approaches) demonstration grants are designed to help states expand and improve the capacity of their legal service delivery networks to effectively respond to priority legal issues impacting seniors in the most social or economic need. The awards will become effective on August 1, 2016 and will provide 8 states with funding in the amount of $1,244,154.
Two Phase I awards, averaging $86,577, will be made to State Units on Aging in Tennessee and Wisconsin. The Phase I grantees will work to develop statewide legal service delivery systems that coordinate efforts of senior legal helplines, pro-bono attorneys, law school clinics, self-help sites, and Older Americans Act-funded legal services providers to ensure maximum impact from limited resources. The target populations are underserved seniors, with particular emphasis upon low-income, minority, rural, homebound, Native American, and limited-English speaking older adults.
- The State of Tennessee will use the funding to improve access to, and the quality of, legal services for vulnerable older Tennesseans. The state seeks to establish a senior legal helpline (as opposed to the existing general legal helpline); increasing by 25% the number of individuals who indicate they were appropriately referred to and served by the legal assistance system; and increasing by 15% the number of elders in the state who make use of self-help resources.
- The State of Wisconsin, which offers a unique service delivery system in its Elder Benefits Specialist program, will work in conjunction with key stakeholders to expand community partnerships; encourage the adoption of new technology to connect older adults with legal assistance; and leverage its existing statewide data collection system to measure systemic improvements.
Six states received Model Approaches Phase II grants to build upon the enhancements in service delivery capacity achieved in Phase I. The Phase II awards of $178,500 each will be made to State Units on Aging in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia. The grantees will conduct legal systems capacity assessments, promote the use of senior legal helplines and other low-cost mechanisms, develop legal service standards and data collection systems, and enhance state legal and aging service delivery systems’ responses to elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Project examples include:
- The State of Connecticut will fund a Senior Legal Helpline that will use GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping to locate hard- to-reach seniors facing legal problems and train case managers serving homebound and isolated seniors to fight financial abuse.
- The State of Florida will create a uniform case management system designed to identify and prioritize legal issues related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In addition, the project will feature a Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) at the state court level to explore remedies to guardianship abuse and advance supported decision-making models.
- The State of Massachusetts will form four regional legal and aging network partnerships to address elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The project will feature the recruitment and training of volunteer attorneys and law students to conduct law clinics at courthouses throughout the state with the goal of addressing priority legal issues impacting seniors most in need.
- The State of Pennsylvania will expand the SeniorLAW HelpLine to provide targeted advocacy and assistance for elder abuse victims in all counties. In addition, the project will feature designated “Elder Abuse Attorney” positions within III-B legal provider offices.
- The State of Vermont will create greater cohesion among the State Unit on Aging, Adult Protective Services, and the Long Term Care Ombudsman. In addition, the project will feature a Senior Legal Helpline designed to handle legal issues related to elder abuse. and the state will also participate in a supported decision-making task force involving legal and aging/disability partners.
- The State of Virginia will integrate a Senior Legal Helpline and at least two Title III-B legal providers into the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Center network to identify and respond to priority legal issues including elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The project will feature formalized memorandums of agreement between project partners, cross-training on priority legal issues, development of legal assistance screening tools, and joint targeting and outreach activities.