supported decision-making legislation

Representative Jennifer Longdon

Arizona’s State Legislature is currently considering House Bill 2538 that will recognize supported decision-making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship. Sponsored by Representative Jennifer Longdon (D) and cosponsored by six other representatives, the bipartisan legislation will allow people to enter into supported decision-making agreements with trusted supporters who may provide the support needed to people with disabilities to live self directed independent lives. To find out more about the legislation and read the proposed bill, you may click on the following link. HB2538

House Bill 2538 has the full support of the Supported Decision-Making Pilot Project. Furthermore, the bill has received support from AARP, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, The Arc of the United States, as well as other organizations and disability leaders. However, in order to pass, we need your support. It is important to let your representatives know that you support House Bill 2538 and believe supported decision-making is a less restrictive alternative to guardianship. To find out who your representatives are, you may visit the Arizona State Legislature website to search for your representatives. You may search for your representatives by clicking on this link https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/

Supported decision-making is a new concept for many people. when talking to your representatives about supported decision-making, there are a few talking points we believe are important to stress.

HB2538 (Supported Decision-Making) Talking Points

What is Supported Decision-Making?

Supported Decision-Making:

  • Gives older adults and people with disabilities the help they need to make choices about their own lives, such as where they want to live; the services, supports, and medical care they want to receive; whom they want to live with; and where they want to work.
  • Promotes self-determination and independence.
  • Allows individuals to choose the supporters they want to help them understand, make, and communicate their decisions.
  • Enables them to retain authority and make final decisions.
  • DOES NOT affect legal guardianship – either existing guardianship arrangements or the rights of caregivers to seek guardianship when it is appropriate.

Why Does Arizona Need A Supported Decision-Making (SDM) Law?

Under current Arizona law:

Arizona State Capital
  • Supported Decision-Making is not a legally-protected option for older adults or people with disabilities who want to retain decision-making authority over life decisions.
  • There are no state regulations either for individuals with disabilities/older adults or the individuals who act as volunteer supporters.

Supported Decision-Making legislation is necessary to:

  • Create a legally recognized agreement that benefits older adults and people with disabilities, their support networks, and the professionals with whom they interact. 
  • Create a way for doctors, bankers, and other professionals to know that the older adult or person with a disability has received necessary information and made a choice about their well-being.
  • Create a less restrictive approach, which is required to be considered before rights are removed through guardianship.

Do Other States Offer Supported Decision-Making?

  • 10 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that allow SDM.
  • All have enacted their laws since 2015. More than 30 other states are considering supported decision-making legislation.

What Impact Does HB 2538 Have on Legal Guardianship?

  • HB 2538 does not affect Arizona guardianship law or the rights and responsibilities of guardians in any way.
  • HB 2538 is designed to assist individuals for whom legal guardianship is not appropriate and who have the capacity to make and communicate personal decisions.
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Does Supported Decision-Making Create a Risk of Exploitation?

NO. In fact, Supported Decision-Making can reduce the risk of abuse or exploitation because:

  • Older adults and people with disabilities remain in charge of their own lives.
  • SDM reduces the isolation too often experienced by those under guardianship and improves the safety and well-being of older adults or individuals with disabilities.
  • SDM arrangements create a team of supporters – a social circle – that looks out for the best interests and personal safety of the individual.
  • Individuals with a Supported Decision-Making arrangement can revoke a Supported Decision-Making agreement with any given support team member at any time.
  • Individuals are protected by provisions that automatically end the supported decision-making agreement if a supporter is found to have engaged in neglect, abuse, or exploitation or is subject to a restraining order.  
  • Proposed SDM legislation makes a mandatory reporter of anyone who believes that an older adult or person with a disability is being abused, neglected, or exploited by their advisor in a supported decision-making arrangement.

How Does Supported Decision-Making Protect Personal Information?

  • Supporters only have access to information that is relevant to a decision being considered through Supported Decision-Making.
  • SDM arrangements establish clear parameters on how confidential records are accessed and protected. 
  • Supporters ensure by signed attestation that all personal information is privileged and confidential. Under this legislation, they face legal consequences for failing to abide by their agreements.

You can stay up-to-date on our supported decision-making efforts in Arizona by following us on Facebook. click on the following link to visit Arizona supported decision-making page on Facebook.

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