RD597 - Biennial Report - Virginia Public Guardian and Conservator Program -- 2018

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Public Guardian and Conservator Program (Program), operated within the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), provides guardian and conservator services for adults who are incapacitated and indigent and for whom no other proper or suitable person can be identified who is willing and able to serve as the individual’s guardian, or conservator, or both, as applicable.

Program Expansion – Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018

The 2016 General Assembly increased funding to DARS by $850,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to increase the number of public guardianship clients served through the Program by 150 client slots and appropriated in FY 2018 an additional $1,061,000 for 193 new client slots. As a result of these two increases, the Program now can serve 1,049 individuals. In FY 2017, unexpected delays were experienced in bringing the 150 new clients into the Program. These delays resulted primarily from difficulties encountered in bringing the legal proceedings necessary for the establishment of the guardianships to court. Steps have been taken to reduce these delays in FY 2018.

Partnership with DBHDS

Since 2007, DARS, working collaboratively with the Department for Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and with funding provided by the General Assembly, has added significant capacity to the Program. This collaboration has enabled the Program to assist in the transition of many vulnerable adults residing in state-operated training centers and state hospitals to the community.

Regulatory Changes for Person-Centered Practices

Final regulations became effective October 19, 2016 amending the Virginia Administrative Code § 22VAC30-70-30 to require public guardianship providers to use person-centered planning practices.

The Challenge of Circuit Court Petitioning Costs in Cases with an Indigent Respondent

A major hurdle for individuals in need of public guardianship is the need to identify a petitioner willing to hire an attorney or find a pro bono attorney to file for and obtain the order of guardianship for an allegedly incapacitated respondent. DARS believes it would be beneficial to serve as a petitioner of last resort if no other petitioner can be identified. The Office of the Attorney General has declined to undertake any such representation on behalf of DARS unless legislation is adopted clarifying that DARS may serve as petitioner. DARS recommends that Virginia Code § 51.5-150 be amended to allow DARS to serve as petitioner in cases in which a public guardian appears to be appropriate, provided no other proper and suitable person can be identified who is willing and able to serve as petitioner.

The Virginia Public Guardian and Conservator Advisory Board (VPGCAB)

The Advisory Board continues to serve as a valuable technical resource and advisor for the Program. The Virginia Code requires DARS to contract with a research entity every four years to evaluate the Program and to identify trends and make recommendations, provided funds are appropriated by the General Assembly for such purpose. The last report was prepared in 2007. The VPGCAB recommends that $30,000 be appropriated by the General Assembly to fund the statutorily mandated evaluation in FY19.