WINGS Minnesota hosted its 3rd Annual Guardianship Summit* on 2/3/17. More than 125 social workers, advocates, attorneys, case managers, professional guardians and human service and health care professionals participated. The Summit was free, with meals and refreshments provided with donations from National Guardianship Association, MN’s CAAP program, and individual donors. The stage for the day's priorities was set by MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea and MN Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner Claire Wilson, both of whom emphasized the importance of improving guardianship systems and their support of WINGS MN's goals to do so.
A robust agenda of speakers and topics continued the conversation begun in past WINGS MN events to address current guardianship practices: observation of what is working well and how the system could be improved with application of emerging national trends and activities.
Genevieve Gaboriault, of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, formally introduced the PRACTICAL Tool, developed by the American Bar Association with assistance from the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making, as a comprehensive assessment tool for attorneys, or anyone contemplating the need for guardianship, to identify and facilitate less restrictive approaches.
Doug Nguyen, Regional Communications Director (Chicago) for the Social Security Administration made a presentation on the use of SSA's Representative Payee Program as a tool to protect against financial exploitation outside of guardianship/conservatorship as well as SSA's available support and education, specifically the new interdisciplinary training series (see link following this article).
Professor Thaddeus Pope, Director of Mitchell Hamline School of Law's Health Law Institute in St. Paul engaged the audience with his Better Healthcare Decision Making for Incapacitated Persons without Surrogate Decision Makers presentation. He described that many states address the problem with default surrogate consent legislation, wherein family members, listed by priority status, would be the legal decision maker in absence of other legally appointed decision maker. MN does not have such legislation, for good or bad, and often health care systems' policies and procedures need to, and can, resolve the conflict in the hospital setting.
WINGS MN has been working hard to bring concepts of Supported Decision Making to Minnesota: introducing the philosophy, and a viable less restrictive alternative to guardianship. Jonathan Martinis of The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, appeared via phone to provide the national perspective and successes for individuals, followed by presentations from Joanne Taylor, Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry in Vancouver British Columbia and Helen Gaebler, William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, University of Texas-Austin about their state/province's experience with supported decision making legislation.
Finally, we wrapped up the day with a facilitated question and answer session with a panel of experts: Moderated by Ben Ashley-Wurtmann, Summit speakers were joined by Honoring Choices Minnesota’s Executive Director Karen Peterson, Jennifer Wright, St. Thomas School of Law, and Robert McLeod, Briggs and Morgan, and a call to action where attendees were asked to contemplate and share what they would take back to their practice settings as a result of the day's discussion. 99% of attendees who completed post-event surveys reported they had gained at least one actionable item to take back to their work setting. Feedback was overwhelming positive, and Helen Gaebler summed it up perfectly: The energy and engagement was terrific and it was great to ... have the opportunity to connect with so many of the folks working on these issues. I hope that we can continue to keep each other informed of progress and to share the ideas that are bubbling up in our respective communities. The more collaborators and pooled experience the better!
(Link to Summit handouts available below photos)
WINGS MN will continue efforts to improve guardianship through: outreach and education to professional and community groups regarding alternatives to, and appropriate use of, guardianship; support and education of people serving as guardians or other surrogate decision-makers, especially family members who find fewer opportunities developed for them than for professionals in our current systems; and continued exploration of interest in legislative change in supported decision making and/or default surrogacy consent practices in Minnesota. Contact us at CESDM@voamn.org with comments, questions, or to inquire about education/training in your region.