OPINION: We have a guardianship crisis in Alaska

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as if Liz Reeves-Ramos

Updated: 17 Minutes ago Published 54 Minutes ago

The last few years have seen many changes in the way foster care services are provided to our most vulnerable people. This year, a long-growing crisis among Alaska’s ranchers has come to a head. I am writing out of great concern.

The opinions and concerns expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or the elected offices I hold. I wrote this using information available to the public outside of business hours. Guardianships and conservatorships exist to provide protection and control for people who are unable to make informed decisions for themselves or manage their own affairs. A person can be placed under guardianship for many reasons, including developmental disabilities, mental illness, or an age-related illness, such as dementia or stroke. The law gives priority to appointing family or friends as guardians or guardians. The lowest priority is private professional guardians and finally, the Office of the Public Defender (OPA), which is the public guardian.

In April of this year, the OPA issued a letter to the Alaska court system. He won’t accept it anymore. New appointments due to overcapacity of public guardians and inability to provide service to wards. This opinion piece is not an attack on the individuals who accept the position of public guardian. They have been given an impossible task and are doing their best. The OPA was overburdened as they were often appointed as there was no one in their lives to act as a guardian other than the OPA. There is no one to appoint now.

Vulnerable Alaskans are in dire straits. For reasons too complex to capture in less than 750 words, there are limited opportunities for paid services for private guardians or surrogates given the overwhelming need to protect vulnerable Alaskans during this crisis. A few days ago, a private security agency known as Cache Integrity Services (CIS). He surrendered his license voluntarily To provide foster care services in Alaska. This will come later Months of charges CIS not providing services to the counties, not paying bills, maintaining benefits or providing housing, etc. A search in CourtView on Alaska’s online court records website shows 114 open defense cases involving CIS. These 114 vulnerable adults now have no one to manage their finances, protect their interests or make medical decisions for them. Now they find themselves without a decision maker, after the court found them incompetent and appointed a CIS, they are now in limbo until someone else can be found and appointed. Some can manage, but others can’t even understand what’s going on, let alone do anything to alleviate their situation.

So, what happens to people who don’t have family or friends to help them when they can’t make decisions for themselves? They sit at home without care. They become victims of financial exploitation and lose their wealth. They sit in the hospital for months waiting for the court to appoint someone, and may even end up homeless or die while waiting for a guardianship appointment. You can’t put someone into assisted living if there’s no financial aid and someone signs the paperwork to accept it. Hospitals had to move people out of the region because their beds were full. Hospitals are now reluctant to admit people if they expect to be bedridden for months.

If private foster care agencies cannot open their doors to provide these essential services to our vulnerable residents, it is up to the government to provide those services. Ignoring our vulnerable population, our seniors, and failing to provide these important and necessary services and supports is simply inexcusable and something needs to be done.

What hurts most about the current crisis is that it is predictable and our government is failing to act proactively. Our government is elected for the benefit of all of us. This public policy crisis requires high-level solutions beyond simply adding more positions to an agency that already suffers from low staffing and poor retention. Something more has to happen. OPA should end its tenure now. Allowing our most vulnerable people to suffer is unacceptable. Alaskans pride ourselves on taking care of ourselves, but in this case we must do better.

Liz Reeves-Ramos He is a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly who works for the State Department of Health’s Adult Protective Services. She wrote this comment in her personal capacity; It does not represent the office she was elected to or the views of her employer.

The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of views. To submit a piece for consideration, email comment(at)adn.com. Submit entries of less than 200 words. letters@adn.com Or Click here to enter through any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments over here.

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