RD597 - Biennial Report - Virginia Public Guardian and Conservator Program – 2020

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 Overview

The Program has capacity to provide public guardianship services, public conservatorship services, or both to 1,049 incapacitated adult residents of Virginia who are found by a Virginia circuit court to be (i) incapacitated, and (ii) who meet the criteria for public guardianship as set forth in Virginia Code § 64.2-2010. These services are provided by 13 local providers who have contracted with DARS. Slots are allocated among four eligibility categories: Unrestricted; DBHDS-ID/DD; DBHDS-MI; and MI/ID. The body of the report provides information regarding the services provided by public guardians as required by law and contract.

Information Regarding Clients

The report includes demographic information regarding the public guardianship clients receiving services as of June 30, 2019, including the number of clients being served in each eligibility category, the age distribution of the Program’s clients, and the type of residences where they were then living.

Program Expansion – State Fiscal Years 2017 - 2019

The 2016 General Assembly increased funding to DARS by $850,000 in State Fiscal Year (“SFY") 2017 to increase the number of public guardianship clients served through the Program by 150 client slots and in SFY 2018 appropriated an additional $1,061,000 for 193 new client slots. In SFY 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 were taken in SFY 2018 to reduce these delays.

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 indigent, allegedly incapacitated respondent. While DARS and the Department for Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (“DBHDS") have allocated funding to assist with the cost of legal proceedings, the funding is temporary; consequently, this may become an issue again in the future.

Partnership with DBHDS

DARS works collaboratively with DBHDS to provide public guardianship services to adult residents of the state who have been determined to be incapacitated by a Virginia circuit court and who have an ID/DD diagnosis or are receiving treatment at a state hospital. The funding provided by the General Assembly to serve these populations has added significant capacity to the Program. This collaboration has enabled the Program to assist many vulnerable adults in maintaining safe and appropriate community placements and in transitioning from state hospitals to the community.