by Shoshanna Ehrlich
The eleven Model Approaches awardee states completed the first six months of their three awards. Neither government shutdowns nor state contracting snafus stopped the Projects from making masterful initial progress. Phase I states (MT, OR,OK, and WA) are first time recipients of the Model Approaches funds. Phase I is geared to creating a coordinated and cost-effective statewide legal service delivery systems under the leadership for Legal Services Developer and including the integration of a senior legal helpline and/or other low cost mechanisms with Title III-B legal services and the broader aging network. The Phase I states established counsels, coalitions, and task forces to work on the Projects and these groups started holding meetings. The establishment of these hopefully permanent leadership groups is in itself a major accomplishment of the Model Approaches Projects. Work progressed on legal needs and capacity assessments and we eagerly look forward to disseminating these instruments and results of the studies.
The Phase II Projects (CA, DC, IA, ID, MI, ME and NE) were designed is to promote the continued evolution of legal service delivery systems created through Model Approaches towards higher levels of capacity and impact, with a particular focus on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. These Projects also made a huge effort to continue and strengthen the collaborations forged during Phase I. Several programs expanded the capacity of their senior legal helplines, expanded use of volunteers and pro bono panels and launched popular online intake components. Several of these Projects are also in the process of conducting system capacity assessments.
These states are implementing much needed and innovative collaborations for recognizing and addressing issues related to elder abuse and financial exploitation. Each Model Approaches state is traveling its own path to address these issues including partnering with state and federal elder abuse-focused organizations and/or financial institutions to hold trainings on elder abuse and exploring approaches to make Powers of Attorney and guardianships less prone to misuse. Projects are also creating web content, video, automated forms and written materials for seniors, caregivers, and professionals on abuse and exploitation issues, as well as developing screening tools to recognize abuse. These projects hold enormous potential to alleviate the burden of abuse and exploitation from the lives of seniors and the work towards that goal is well under way.