Professionals in the medical, mental health, legal and social services fields statewide are meeting at the Mississippi Supreme Court in Jackson. They're concerned about the state's guardianship and conservatorship laws for vulnerable adults and working to develop solutions. Ta'Shia Gordon, with the Court's Administrative Office, coordinated the effort. She says the process should be more user-friendly. The attorney had to help her family after Gordon's father had a stroke.
"Having to navigate the process of getting help and resources to him was a little difficult. So, I can't imagine for someone who doesn't have the education or the training," said Gordon.
Gordon explains a guardianship is used when someone is physically or mentally unable to take care of him or herself. A conservatorship allows someone to manage a person's financial affairs when he or she is unable to do so. Professor Desiree Hensley is here with her students from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Hensley says a major concern is once a guardian is appointed, the adult loses all legal rights to make decisions.
"So I think one idea that the committee needs to look at is whether or not court should be required to consider whether there's some other means to help you, that allows you to continue to be a decision-maker on your own behalf to the extent that you're able," said Hensley.
Hensley says there's a lack of training and oversight for people appointed to these roles. Also no data are collected. Gordan says they'll begin by implementing short term goals.
"Hopefully we can launch a website to have some information on there for persons who are serving as guardians for family members or people in their community," said Gordon.
A $7,000 grant from the Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders is funding the sessions.