Center for At-Risk Elders Wins Legal Victory in Justice Pursuit: Civil Judgement Issued in Elder Exploitation Case

Indianapolis, IN (March 4, 2019) – The Center for At-Risk Elders, Inc. (CARE) announces an important legal victory in a major elder exploitation case. CARE has won a summary judgment of $297,903.06 plus costs in the case of Harrington v. Harrington in Hamilton Superior Court (Cause Number 29D03-1505-PL-003696).

CARE founder and Senior Counsel H. Kennard Bennett represented the Plaintiff, Deborah C. Harrington, in her capacity as guardian for her mother, Martha C. Harrington, against the Defendant, Margaret C. Harrington (“Christine”) as part of CARE’s Justice Pursuit program.

Prior to Deborah’s appointment as guardian of her mother, Deborah’s sister, Christine, had acted as Power of Attorney over their mother, placed her in a nursing facility, and proceeded to covert thousands of dollars in income and assets belonging to their mother for her own use.

As a public interest law firm, CARE seeks justice with a focus on pursuing civil remedies to redress and deter elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. CARE is proud to be able to hold perpetrators of abuse and neglect accountable for their actions through appropriate civil remedies in the courts.

“At its core, the Center for At-Risk Elders is driven by justice,” explained Executive Director H. Kennard Bennett. “We harness our legal horsepower to guard vulnerable elders in our community. One case at a time, we will seek justice.”

The Center for At-Risk Elders is a non-profit lawyer-led team of volunteer and staff advocates who protect Indiana’s neglected, abused, and exploited elders. The Center has served as legal guardian for over 400 vulnerable men and women in Central Indiana so far in our six years of operation. We operate a volunteer guardianship program which serves hundreds of incapacitated and unbefriended adults in our community.

To learn more about CARE and our Justice Pursuit, and to learn more about volunteering or donating in support of its work, please visit CARE’s website, www.indianacare.org.

Bennett Testifies At Indiana Senate Committee

 

Testimony Before the Senate Family and Children Services Committee on Senate Bill 396 regarding Guardian Reimbursement and Medicaid Eligibility

January 23, 2017

Thank you Chairman Grooms and members of the Family and Children Services Committee for allowing me to indicate the Center for At-Risk Elders’ strong support of Senate Bill 396.

My name is H. Kennard Bennett and I am the Executive Director and Senior Counsel for the Center for At-Risk Elders, Inc., (CARE) a non-profit public interest law firm.  Currently CARE serves as guardian for approximately 140 indigent, incapacitated individuals residing in Central Indiana.  Our nonprofit receives referrals from three hospital chains that help fund our work through subscription grant agreements.  In addition, we also receive referrals from Marion County Adult Protective Services (APS) that are funded through a VASIA grant from the Adult Guardianship Office of the Indiana Supreme Court. 

On average, we become guardian for about two new incapacitated individuals each week.

When incapacitated individuals do not have suitable family members to serve as guardian, then who does serve?  Indiana does not have a “public guardianship” program where the State provides guardianship services to those in need of a guardian.  Indiana has instead focused on the development of volunteer guardianship programs referred to as “VASIA” programs pursuant to IC 29-3-8.5 to help meet that need.  CARE is recognized by the Marion County Probate Court as a VASIA program.

The role of a guardian is often misunderstood.  The task involves identifying what care services are necessary for the incapacitated person, managing the incapacitated person’s finances in a fiduciary manner, applying for appropriate public benefits to ensure that their care needs can be met, monitoring the quality of care and services, and advocating for a quality of life in the least restrictive environment. Serving as a guardian is hard work if the job is to be done well. I encourage members to review the Standards of Practice and Model Code of Ethics developed by the National Guardianship Association to best understand the role and expectations of guardians.

Currently under Indiana law, any guardian for a Medicaid nursing home resident is only allowed to be paid $35/mo. for their services as guardian.  ICES Manual §3455.15.10.  This is simply not enough if we expect guardians to be effective advocates for their wards.  We commend Senator Koch for recognizing this and proposing legislation that will enable courts to authorize up to $175/mo. in guardianship fees.

Empirical studies have shown that access to trained guardians tends to decrease the overall costs to the medical system (and therefore to Medicare and Medicaid) by ensuring preventative care and services are provided, as well as improving compliance with post-acute discharge orders, thus decreasing unnecessary readmissions.

Passage of Senate Bill No. 396 would:

Greatly expand access to guardianship services for Indiana’s incapacitated adults in need.

Reasonably compensate guardians for the hard work being performed.

 Improve the quality of guardianship services in Indiana by encouraging greater professionalism by both family guardians, private professional guardians, and VASIA programs alike.  

Help to reduce the overall costs to Indiana’s Medicaid program.

We strongly encourage passage of Senate Bill No. 396.