A new partnership between the state Office for the Aging, the state Office of Court Administration and the New York State Bar Association will work to find ways to provide affordable legal services to senior citizens and New Yorkers with disabilities.
"Access to affordable legal services is of utmost importance, particularly for senior citizens and residents with disabilities," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "This partnership builds on efforts the state has already taken to ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities are treated fairly and have proper access to the same avenues of justice that are available to others."
The collaborative effort will identify the legal needs and barriers to justice faced by older adults and individuals with disabilities. The partners involved in the effort will develop a strategic plan to more effectively use existing resources, including attorney pro bono programs, to target areas of greatest need.
For older New Yorkers and individuals with disabilities, access to affordable legal services can be a critical factor in their ability to continue to live in their homes and communities of choice. Financial, health care and family problems can also pose complicated legal issues. To determine the adequacy of existing programs, the partnership will assess legal needs and identify legal assistance programs and resources. It will survey legal services providers, attorneys, judges, the general public and county-based agencies on aging that administer the state Office for the Aging's Legal Assistance Program.
It also will develop an inventory of legal resources and perform an access-to-justice gap analysis. A group including attorneys, judges, health care professionals, experts on aging and disabilities, and others will devise a blueprint for enhancing access to affordable legal services by the targeted populations and their caregivers.
The partnership is expected to yield a variety of educational programs and tools, including an interactive website, a series of community forums to raise awareness about the legal issues often faced by the targeted populations, an elder preparedness self-assessment tool, an elder law treatise for attorneys and other professionals, and strategies for increasing the availability of free and low-cost legal services. The partnership was facilitated by Robert Abrams, a long-time practitioner and advocate in the field of elder law.