The 2015 Legislature approved Senate Joint Resolution 22, which requested a study of guardianship laws and services for elderly and disabled individuals. Legislators ranked the study eighth out of 15 study resolutions, and the Legislative Council in May assigned the study to the Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee.
SJR 22 asked that the Committee look at the following items as part of the study:
existing guardianship laws to determine if they could be changed to improve protections for elderly and disabled individuals;
guardianship services available to individuals through DPHHS;
efforts at the local level to provide guardianship services;
funding needs and availability for guardianship services, including an examination of current and potential funding sources;
efforts in other states to establish uniform, statewide guardianship programs or otherwise improve guardianship services; and
recommendations of national groups that work on matters related to guardianship for vulnerable citizens.
At its June 3 meeting, the committee decided to expand the scope of the study to include topics related to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Members also agreed to devote an additional 8 hours to the expanded study. Members adopted a final plan for the study in September, when they also heard presentations from state officials, attorneys, and a district court judge about how guardianship laws and proceedings are carried out.
At their November 2015 meeting, committee members heard from representatives of local guardianship programs about the services they provide and the individuals they serve. They also heard in-depth presentations on the the prevalence, causes, stages, and treatments for Alzheimer's disease; the community-based services and types of facilities that provide care for dementia patients; the experiences and thoughts of family caregivers; and the activities of the Montana Alzheimer's/Dementia Work Group, which is in the midst of preparing a plan for addressing Alzheimer's disease in the state.
In January 2016, Erica Wood of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging outlined areas often targeted for guardianship reforms, while Kelly Williams of the state's Senior and Long-Term Care Division provided data on home and community-based services and an ongoing effort to assess the need for respite services for family caregivers.
During the March meeting, members heard about standards of practice developed by the National Guardianship Association and heard about guardianship training and practices in Ohio and Washington state. Members of the Montana Alzheimer's/Dementia Work Group also presented their preliminary recommendations.
Committee members considered seven bill drafts in May on topics ranging from financial protections for vulnerable adults to additional community services for individuals with Alzheimer's disease. In June, they reviewed revisions to the drafts, discussed options for some of them, and decided to:
introduce LCCF5a, to train volunteer respite providers, as a committee bill in the 2017 Legislature;
make changes to LCCF6a, to increase home and communiity-based waiver slots and reimbursement rates, and LCCF7b, for a working interdisciplinary network of guardianship stakeholders and review the bills again in August;
discontinue consideration of LCCF3a, to provide grant funding for the facilitiation of Alzheimer's services; and
review the remainder of the drafts again in August before making a final decision on whether to proceed with them.
At their final meeting in August, members decided to advance four of the remaining bills to the 2017 legislative session, as listed below.
The committee approved the following bills for introduction as committee bills in the 2017 Legislature:
LCCF02: Financial Protections for Vulnerable Adults