Assembly OKs bill establishing ‘supported decision making’
Model allows greater autonomy for disabled, elderly people who need support
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell and Rep. Robert E. Craven to establish a formal process recognizing “supported decision making,” a structure of support for disabled or aging individuals.
The legislation, which now heads to the governor’s desk, establishes a system of personal support that is less restrictive than guardianship to help individuals maintain independence while receiving assistance in making and communicating important life decisions. It is aimed at providing an alternative with more self-determination for individuals who are aging or who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.
“Regardless of disabilities, all people deserve dignity and the right to make as many of their own decisions about their lives as possible. While guardianship may be the right fit for some people, supported decision making is much less restrictive and maintains individuals’ autonomy while ensuring they have the help they need. This is an opportunity for more fulfilling, independent lives for many Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).
Under the bill (2019-S 0031A, 2019-H 5909), individuals in Rhode Island would be able to designate another person, or a team of people, as a supporter who would help them gather and weigh information, options, responsibilities and consequences of their life decisions about their personal affairs, support services, medical or psychological treatment, education and more. The supporter would also help the individual communicate the person’s wishes to those who need to know.
“Supported decision making is an empowering option that recognizes that individuals, including those with disabilities, deserve to have control over their own lives. When someone can’t live completely independently, the first approach, if at all possible, should be to give them the help they need to make their own decisions, rather than just appointing someone else to make those decisions for them,” said Representative Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation is supported by the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities and AARP Rhode Island. Eight other states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation to legally recognize some form of supported decision making.
The legislation creates a legal form that establishes the agreement between individuals and their supporters, and designates the types of decisions with which the supporter is authorized to help. The bill establishes that decisions made with support under such an agreement are legally valid, and allows supporters to assist with the accessing of an individual’s confidential health and educational records.
It also requires that any other person who is aware that an individual is being abused, neglected or exploited by their supporter is obligated to report that abuse to the proper authorities.
The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903