Authorizing Legislation: Title IV, Section 420(a)(2), of the Older Americans Act, as amended
ACL’s Legal Assistance Enhancement Program (LAEP) supports legal assistance enhancements and innovations in four key areas:
- Outreach efforts to effectively educate clients and the aging network about legal assistance;
- Intake strategies that are integrated with the broader aging network;
- Essential partnerships within and outside the aging network that serve communities of older adults; and
- Delivery of full-range legal assistance, from legal advice through representation.
These grants seek to achieve quantifiable and sustainable enhancements that build upon existing programmatic work to increase the effectiveness of legal assistance for older Americans with social or economic need.
In 2019, ACL funded six legal assistance organizations with three-year grants to address gaps in access to legal assistance and strengthen programs serving older adults. Grantees address a diverse set of issues, such as supporting grandparents raising grandchildren, utilizing technology to advance elder justice, Medical-Legal Partnerships, reaching under-served communities, and disaster recovery.
Cherry Street Services, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center, in partnership with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, operates a Medical-Legal Partnership that focuses on identifying legal solutions for health-harming issues faced by older-adult patients. The on-site attorney is a vital part of the health center's integrated health care service delivery, and identifies and addresses the legal needs of older-adult patients while providing training to and learning from primary care providers, social workers, nurses, Community Health Workers, and others engaged in the health care of older adults.
Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. (ILAS) is working to increase attorney capacity to take on pressing cases impacting older adults, expand representation through both the senior advice line and extended representation, and build and strengthen partnerships throughout urban and rural parts of the state. Through the project, ILAS is developing a Legal Risk Detector and partnering with other organizations to screen more older adults for potential legal need, identify legal issues at a preventative stage, and facilitate direct referrals from partners. ILAS also conducts education and outreach statewide.
Legal Services of Alabama, Inc. (LSA), in partnership with Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, works to enhance and expand holistic legal services to older persons across the state. Through the project, LSA is developing partnerships with community services providers, and conducting community education and outreach to achieve positive outcomes in addressing the legal needs of older adults in Alabama, with a focus on access to home and community-based services.
Legal Services of North Florida, in partnership with Legal Services of Greater Miami, is working to create a replicable statewide model of delivery of legal assistance to older Floridians. Through the project, they are improving intake systems, training programs, outreach, and direct legal services to improve access to legal services and legal outcomes for older adults. They are also developing innovative tools to improve services and serve as a model for providing legal assistance to older adults with critical needs, such as those who are homeless, victims of physical abuse, victims of consumer and economic exploitation, or recovering from natural and other disasters.
The Public Law Center (PLC), in partnership with the Council on Aging of Southern California, works to increase access to legal assistance for older adults and educate older adults in Orange County, CA about their legal needs and rights and the availability of assistance to address issues, such as elder financial abuse. They are also working to provide holistic services to address a range of legal and non-legal needs, such as through a social worker who partners with the attorneys providing legal assistance.
SeniorLAW Center works to increase access to legal representation, education, and resources for older adults in Pennsylvania who are caring for minor children when the biological parents are unable to do so. Through the project, SeniorLAW Center is creating innovative tools to enhance intake, training legal professionals to increase pro bono representation of grandparents raising grandchildren, engaging community partners to increase access to legal assistance for older adults, and conducting community education for older adults to learn about their legal needs and rights. The project also works to provide particular support to families affected by drug use, particularly opioid dependency.