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Protection For Seniors Hampered By New Budget Cuts

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The implementation of laws to protect seniors and dependent adults from abuse by court-appointed conservators are under threat of being delayed yet another year. Conservators control the care and finances of adults, usually the elderly, whom probate courts deem to be incapable of caring for themselves or managing their own finances.

In response to the discovery of theft, elder abuse and negligence by some court appointed professional conservators in the handling of the affairs of seniors and dependant adults, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a sweeping reform package in 2006 designed to improve supervision of the conservators by the courts that appoint them.

The California Senate’s Budget and Fiscal Review Committee has recommended holding back on funding the conservatorship reform program for another year, dealing another blow to the State’s aged and disabled. An article in The L.A.Times reports this measure is a part of the State’s courts $246 million budget cuts and is now being considered for the final budget draft.

The new laws call for licensing of professional conservators; for courts to conduct more comprehensive investigations and securitization of conservator’s financial reporting of the management of their clients’ money. Unfortunately, last year Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the funding meant for these reforms citing fiscal problems. And now, the Legislature intends to continue the delay in implementation for another year.

Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), an author of the reform and Anthony Chicotel, a staff attorney at the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have voiced their concerns with the cuts. Jones said the delays would only lead to more senior and dependent adult abuse at the hands of some conservators.

Both the Los Angeles County and Orange County courts are reportedly struggling now, to meet the reform requirements that include visiting people under conservatorship every year. Daniel Pone, an attorney with the state’s Judicial Council said the courts are doing their best to ensure the reform requirements are met but need more State money.

The problems with the conservatorship system are well known and the reforms were made to correct them. Without the funding, there is no supervision and the conservators basically have their charges at their mercy.

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