Press Release: Guardianship Terminated in Favor of Supported Decision-Making for the First Time in Maine
Posted on June 13, 2018
CONTACT: Nell Brimmer, Esq.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2018
AUGUSTA – Disability Rights Maine (DRM) announces that for the first time in Maine, a guardianship has been terminated in favor of Supported Decision-Making (SDM). The petition to terminate stated that Petitioner Joshua Strong believed he was no longer incapacitated under the law because he is now utilizing Supported Decision-Making. The Knox County Probate Court agreed that by utilizing supports and services as well as chosen supporters, Mr. Strong is now able to effectively manage his affairs and no longer requires a guardian. DRM Managing Attorney Nell Brimmer, who represented Mr. Strong in these proceedings, states “Josh’s order marks the beginning of Supported Decision-Making as a legally recognized alternative to guardianship in Maine. For far too long, guardianship has been the only legally-recognized device for individuals who need additional help with the decision-making process. Josh’s hard work and victory today creates a new and broader narrative about civil rights and liberties, which expands the ability for all Mainers to have access to the accommodations and support they need to ensure legal capacity before the law.”
Mr. Strong graduated last year from a pilot project class highlighting decision-making as a skill, a joint effort of DRM and the community service provider where Mr. Strong receives services. This decision comes ahead of the promulgation of Maine’s new Probate Code in July of 2019, which will include Supported Decision-Making as a less restrictive alternative that must first be considered prior to applying for adult guardianship. For Mr. Strong, this decision is a long-awaited victory. “It’s been a goal of mine for four years, and it’s super awesome that now it’s official. I won’t have to ask permission for things anymore, and will use my best judgment in making decisions with the help of my supporters.”
In Maine, adults under plenary, or full, guardianship do not have the right to make decisions about their life, such as where to live, how to spend their time and money, whether to get married or whether to raise a family. Guardianship has been described as a “civil death” because of this significant loss of civil rights and independence. DRM has been actively engaged in identifying alternatives to guardianship and has worked closely with self-advocates and stakeholders around the state to create change.
With the Supported Decision-Making model, individuals with disabilities are empowered to have self-determination and control over their own lives, preserving their legal capacity and civil rights. Through a series of relationships, practices, arrangements and agreements, an individual with a disability is assisted in making and communicating to others decisions about their life.
For more information on utilizing Supported Decision-Making or to schedule a training, please visit DRM’s website on Supported Decision-Making in Maine, www.supportmydecision.org.
Through its operation of multiple federal and state funded programs, DRM advocates for individuals with disabilities whose rights have been violated, who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or who have faced discrimination on the basis of their disability. DRM seeks redress where rights concerns arise related to housing, education, physical access, rehabilitation, health care, community supports, and employment. Additionally, DRM works toward public policy reform through training, outreach and systemic advocacy.