As Gerald Petruccelli and Bruce McGlauflin, authors of the Nov. 10 commentary “State of Maine is an unfit guardian for intellectually disabled adults,” rightly note, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is the last, not the first, option for adults determined to require a guardian.

DHHS serves as the court-appointed public guardian for approximately 1,300 incapacitated adults. When the court appoints DHHS as public guardian, after determining no alternative exists, the Office of Aging and Disability Services designates a licensed social worker to serve as public guardian representative. These representatives are responsible for meeting the needs of their clients and do so with integrity. The possibility that their efforts might affect the DHHS budget does not constrain their actions.

Currently, some staff fulfill dual responsibilities, such as public guardian representative and Adult Protective Services investigator. We acknowledge the potential for conflicts of interest and have begun implementing a plan to address them. Beginning in January, staff will be dedicated to perform the public guardian representative role exclusively. They will have no other responsibilities and no mission but to advocate for the people under their protection.

Additionally, the Legislature’s recent comprehensive revisions to the Maine Probate Code expand court oversight to ensure that all guardians, public and private, meet their fiduciary obligations.

This plan to ensure high-quality services for those under guardianship is part of a broader strategy to support all adults with disabilities in Maine in pursuing healthy lives in which their needs and preferences are met.

Paul Saucier

director, Office of Aging and Disability Services, Maine Department of Health and Human Services

Augusta

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