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Thursday, August 29, 2002 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging today announced the award of $750,000 in grants to support the delivery of legal services to older Americans.

"Protecting the rights of vulnerable older citizens is one of our most important responsibilities," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "Legal issues impact the lives of older Americans and their families. These grants help ensure that affordable, quality legal assistance is available before a family crisis strikes."

Five national organizations are each receiving $150,000 under the Administration on Aging’s Legal Assistance and Elder Rights Program. The grants are being used to strengthen and improve the quality and accessibility of the legal assistance provided to older people across the United States. The Older Americans Act, administered by the AoA, is one of the largest providers of publicly funded legal assistance for older individuals. These grantees will serve as legal resource centers for elder law attorneys and aging services providers – and will provide them with training, fact sheets and other written materials, case consultations, and help with service delivery issues.

"Having accessible information is necessary to maintaining a good quality of life. These programs will help to ensure that seniors and their caregivers receive critical information in areas such as consumer protection, public benefits, and health and financial advance planning," said Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell.

Organizations receiving these grants include:

The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging (COLA), Washington, D.C. -- provides elder law attorneys and aging network personnel with technical assistance on substantive legal issues. The project also works to improve legal assistance delivery systems, with a focus on collaborations among public programs and the private bar. In the next year project staff will produce Fair Housing for Frail Older Renters and Consumer Legal Issues in Assisted Living fact sheets, and they will manage a listserv that connects over 350 elder law attorneys and other advocates from across the country. COLA will also post the following items on its Website: the 250-page ABA Legal Guide for Older Americans, Consumer’s Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning, and Spanish and English versions of Health and Financial Decisions: Legal Tools for Preserving Your Personal Autonomy.

The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG), Ann Arbor, Michigan - helps states to improve their legal services delivery systems. In the coming year TCSG will visit 8 to 10 states to provide in-depth technical assistance in areas such as targeting of legal services to seniors in the most social and economic need, implementing statewide legal services standards and reporting/outcome measures, and creating state elder rights coalitions. TCSG will also host a guardianship/caregiver mediation training conference, and it will publish two issues of Best Practice Notes on the Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons.

The AARP Foundation’s National Training Project (NTP), Washington, D.C. -- provides legal services attorneys and aging network personnel with in-depth training and technical assistance in areas such as Medicare, nursing home law, advance directives, SSI, Social Security, elder abuse, coalition building, and strategic planning. The NTP also offers an intensive "Training-of-Trainer" program to enhance the skills of field trainers in legal and social services organizations. In the coming year, NTP will conduct 15 to 20 two-day training sessions, and it will coordinate the National Aging and Law Conference. Project staff will also develop downloadable overheads on elder law topics for community-based organizations, and they will develop an on-line version of NTP’s Nursing Home Law Module.

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), Boston, Massachusetts - improves legal assistance to older Americans whose finances and economic independence are threatened by scams and abuses in the marketplace. The project addresses the most pressing consumer problems faced by the elderly, including challenges to sustaining home ownership, fraudulent and exploitive sales practices, and debt management and financial decision-making. In the next year NCLC will provide training, legal practice aids, and in-depth case consultations to elder law attorneys and other advocates serving the elderly. The project will also produce an elder fraud brochure and two consumer law fact sheets for seniors and two for advocates.

The National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC), Washington, D.C. -- provides in-depth case consultations to senior legal services providers, and it conducts substantive training sessions at state and national conferences. Within the next year, NSCLC staff will respond to approximately 1,000 requests for in-depth case consultations, and they will conduct at least 75 training sessions and related technical assistance sessions benefiting no fewer than 2,000 participants. NSCLC will also convene governmental and community-based advocates in a New Mexico pilot project to assess and plan improvements in the state’s elder rights advocacy and legal assistance systems.