State Guardianship Reforms Protect Disability Rights

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The Amistad Monthly newsletter

Throughout the state of Texas, there are more than 50,000 persons who are deemed by the courts to be incapacitated and in need of a guardian. Persons in need of guardianship are often elderly, but many are persons with intellectual and/or physical incapacities who may be of any age. But one of the biggest controversies during the last State Legislative Session was whether it was necessary for persons with intellectual incapacities to be stripped of all of their rights as a person. “Guardianship laws tend to be among the most restrictive for persons with disabilities,” said Richard LaVallo, an attorney with Dis-ability Rights of Texas. Speaking on a recent TV forum, LaVallo said that just because persons are incapacitated doesn’t mean they can’t decide where they want to live. During the 84th Texas Legislature, law-makers approved a measure that requires judges to take into full consideration whether or not a person needs a court-appointed guardian. “The law requires the court to look into whether (a person with an incapacity) has a support system where they live and be well-integrated into the community such as small group homes,” said LaVallo. Guardianship is not always the answer, but under the guardianship sys-tem in Texas, persons with incapacities are often as-signed to agencies like Project Amistad. Trained guardians working with the court then become the main decision-makers regarding almost every aspect of the person’s life including where they should live and what kind of health care and social services they should receive. The key determining factor is always based on the best interests of the client.