ACL is awarding a total of $1.25 million in funding to help six legal assistance organizations strengthen programs serving older adults. The first-ever Legal Assistance Enhancement Program (LAEP) funding will focus on four key areas: outreach, partnerships, intake, and delivery. Grantees will address a diverse set of issues including the opioid epidemic, supporting grandparents raising grandchildren, utilizing technology to advance elder justice, Medical-Legal Partnerships, reaching under-served communities, and disaster recovery.
A recent Legal Services Corporation report found that elders seek legal assistance for less than 20% percent of their legal issues. Gaps in access to legal assistance are particularly pronounced among low-income elders, elders facing Isolation by virtue of geography or language, and elders living in rural, frontier, or tribal communities. Access to quality legal assistance can help improve health and wellness outcomes for older adults by promoting personal and economic independence, preserving access to appropriate services, and supporting the right to live free from (or recover from) the experience of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.
ACL is also awarding $2.8 million to help 10 states strengthen their adult protective services (APS) systems through innovations and improvements in practice, services, data collection, and reporting. Alaska, New Jersey, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia are receiving State APS Enhancement Grants for the first time while Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, and Washington will build on work funded by previous State APS Enhancements. Innovative approaches proposed by states include a restorative justice program and closer partnerships with tribes.
State APS systems investigate reports of abuse and exploitation of older adults and people with disabilities. They provide support and case-management, and connect people facing abuse to a variety of protective, emergency, and support services.
Legal Assistance Enhancement Program Award Recipients
- Legal Services Alabama will use a variety of strategies including an integrated point of contact, specialized community education and outreach, and full on-site services in targeted underserved areas to provide enhanced and coordinated legal services to older Alabamians.
- The Public Law Center, in partnership with Council on Aging Southern California, will expand and maintain an elder justice project for low-income older adults in Orange County, CA over three years. The project will have a specific focus on enhancing services for victims of elder abuse.
- Cherry Street Services, in partnership with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, will enhance and expand its use of a Medical-Legal Partnership model to address the social factors that can contribute to poor health.
- SeniorLAW Center, and its partners in the aging network and legal community, will respond to the opioid crisis by enhancing legal assistance and access to justice for older Pennsylvanians raising grandchildren and intergenerational families.
- Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc., along with diverse partners, will increase ILAS’s ability to identify and provide legal aid to Idaho seniors statewide by performing statewide education and outreach and developing a Legal Risk Detector and self-assessment app.
- Legal Services of North Florida, in partnership with Legal Services of Greater Miami and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, will develop a replicable, statewide model to improve access to legal assistance for elders with critical needs including elders recovering from disasters, elders who are homeless or on the cusp of homelessness, elders who are victims of physical abuse, and elders who have been victimized by consumer scams and other forms of economic exploitation.
State APS Enhancement Grant Recipients
The Alabama Department of Human Resources will enhance system documentation and data tracking to improve outcomes for APS clients. Alabama will implement a comprehensive dashboard system to provide quick ad hoc reports and improve statewide data quality.
The Alaska Division of Senior and Disability Services will work with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency to implement Structured Decision Making instruments through a web based data collection and storage system. Alaska will also train APS caseworkers to use these new assessment tools to support the system's work.
- The Arizona Department of Economic Security will develop a program of enhanced investigator training to meet the challenges of recruitment and retention while providing clients with trained, culturally competent, and committed investigators.
- The Illinois Department of Aging will enhance APS training and outreach to the public and professionals, with the goal of improving APS caseworker and supervisor response to an increase in reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation and improve relationships between APS, law enforcement, and other legal professionals.
- The New Jersey Department of Human Services will design and build a database system that will meet the case management and programmatic needs of NJ APS. This will include development of a framework for statewide uniform NJ APS data collection practices and expansion of data elements to include all phases of APS involvement, alignment of data collection with NAMRS, and consolidation of the existing county based databases into a single cloud-based comprehensive information management system.
- The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will partner with UT Health, the Tarrant Count DA, Harris County DA, Houston Senior Justice Assessment Center, TEAM Institute, and Eide Bailey LLP to improve investigations and client services by incorporating high quality forensic accounting into standard investigative systems and practices, including enhancing training for APS investigators on financial exploitation and developing financial exploitation investigation checklists and law enforcement reporting protocol.
- The Utah State Office of Adult Protective Services will enhance services to vulnerable adults in Utah by improving system infrastructure and services aimed at financial exploitation. Their project will expand Utah’s reporting capabilities to NAMRS, improve the quality of data collection, improve tools for assessing capacity and protective need for victims of financial exploitation, and establish a multi-disciplinary team approach with community partners focusing on victims of financial exploitation.
- The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living will create, coordinate, and maintain a Restorative Justice Program to serve both victims and perpetrators of adult maltreatment. The restorative justice program will provide substantiated perpetrators additional options for restitution, rather than placement on the Vermont Adult Abuse Registry, with the goal of decreasing recidivism among offenders and reducing re-victimization rates.
- The Washington Department of Social and Health Services, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration will expand and improve their APS system. Efforts will include developing a training curriculum for statewide use with a focus on self-neglect and financial exploitation, creating and validating risk and safety assessment decision tools, integrating a financial tool to assist in financial exploitation determinations. They will also expand outreach and collaborations with community partners, tribal government, and law enforcement through multi-disciplinary teams and Elder Justice Centers (enhanced multi-disciplinary teams).
- The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources will develop, implement, and evaluate a new standardized determination tool for APS referrals; develop a new adult services monthly management report; develop training curriculum; and enhance community outreach.
A webinar series from the APS Technical Assistance Resource Center highlights promising practices from previous recipients of APS Enhancement Grants. Learn about Hawaii's focus on quality assurance, Colorado's efforts to improve the APS intake process and assessment tools, Massachusetts' work to expand access to trauma and victim services for survivors of sexual assault with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and New York's development of a new tool to investigate financial exploitation and new reportable data elements to capture its cost.
30 years experience investigating elder abuse clearly demonstrated that government/
APS/law enforcement approach is not the answer. All the data collection done & there is plenty; majority of elder abuse involves family members. To prevent and protect the APS/law enforcement approach is not the answer (data showing that as well) yet too often getting the grant money. It is the nonprofits and faith based organizations that actually provide direct services that ensure seniors aren't isolated nor without day to day resources. These kind of service providers should have priority to grant money. County/state taxpayers cover APS, law enforcement and DA's salaries and costs. Legal representation- grant money couldn't come close to cover any real services related to elder abuse cases and those that provide legal services through Senior Centers do next to nothing. White collar crime and elder abuse is huge and this includes elder law attorneys as well. Just like all those that spoke out about guardianship abuse for so long before it was given credibility the same for recognizing the truth when it comes to growth of government agencies and legal services; very little relates to direct services or effective intervention. Important to recognize most seniors respond to services that are within their community; where it is recognizable and known to them. Sometimes reevaluation is not easy but necessary. Hope this will be given serious thought and discussion. As an APS Supervisor in San Diego County, FAST Chairperson & presenter for NAPSA conferences and lots of outreach and education I speak from experience and the heart. Important to ensure the safety and well being of our aging community even more important we do it effectively to maximize real and direct resources to seniors.