New guardian program advocates for the disabled, disadvantaged

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, November 15, 2013

JANESVILLE—Disabled or disadvantaged Rock County residents now have another resource thanks to KANDU's new Guardian Advocate Program.

The program was certified in July and gained its first ward last week, said Signe Whalen, program manager.

Its purpose is to advocate for those who cannot make decisions for themselves, she said.

For example, Whalen said, “we'll ensure they are getting proper medical care,” Whalen said.

In doing so, the medical staff will be better informed about their patient, she said.

“The guardian advocate is a person or agency the courts appoint to act for an adult who has been found to be incompetent by a court of law,'' Whalen said.

The Guardian Advocate Program will provide an extra set of eyes and ears for county social workers to help them make sure the ward is getting full access to all aspects of the community, she said.

Other program bonuses include integrating the ward into the community and exposing the community to difference aspects of life that could potentially help get rid of the stigmas about people with disabilities, Whalen said.

The Guardian Advocate Program has the ability to work with up to 20 wards.

“But that may increase,” she said.

Wards coming to the program might have been receiving services in the county. Others might not have had any services because they didn't want them or they didn't know where to go for help, Whalen said.

“We're going to make sure we find those resources for them,” she said.

Program participants, will get support to match their medical, financial, personal and social needs, she said.

Although Rock County has similar programs, there's enough need to support another program, Whalen said.

“There's a need now, more than ever, because of the drastically increasing aging population who may no longer be able to care for somebody in their care,” Whalen said.

The program does not seek clients. It receives referrals from Rock County Human Services Long-Term Support Program and through its Developmental Disabilities Board.

An assessment determines eligibility, Whalen said.

Almost all clients will be funded through the developmental disabilities board or the long-term support program, although the guardian program may accept self-pay clients.

“We also consider private payment,'' Whalen said.

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