The University of Mississippi Clinical Programs recently provided assistance to the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) to support their application for a Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) grant, which was awarded this week. The MS Supreme Court and AOC were only one of five courts in the country to receive this grant.
Spearheaded by Professor Desiree Hensley, with help from Professor David Calder and Professor Kilgore (Director of the Elder Law Project at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services), the Clinical Programs helped the Supreme Court and AOC plan the work it would undertake as a WINGS recipient. “It has been a real pleasure to support the Mississippi Supreme Court’s and the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts’ application for a WINGS grant. Now that they have received the grant, I’ll shift to working with UM Law Legislation Clinic students to provide the Court and the AOC with high quality legal and policy research and writing. The Legislation Clinic students’ overall goal will be to give the Court and the AOC the best advice they can about what steps the Court and AOC should take to protect vulnerable adults in Mississippi from abuse and neglect. That’s a big deal and hard work, but the students are entirely capable of doing it,” says Professor Desiree Hensley.
Currently, there are no collaborative efforts in Mississippi that address adult guardianship issues or other, less restrictive, decision-making options for incapacitated people. There are entities and individuals in the State who advocate for incapacitated people within their own spheres of influence and these stakeholders can be brought together to effectively accomplish the goals set out by the National Guardian Network. Examples of these stakeholders whom the Court either has asked or will ask to participate in the Mississippi WINGS program include Representatives of Veterans Affairs, the Health Department, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health, Adult Protective Services, the Long Term Care Ombudsman, and Area Agencies on Aging; Members of the private bar who practice elder-related Law, legal aid organizations, pro bono organizations, law school legal clinics, judges, court administrators, legislators, and law enforcement; University of Mississippi faculty from various departments, including sociology, psychology, gerontology, law, applied sciences, and medicine; and individuals who have experienced these issues first-hand.
“By enrolling in Professor Hensley’s Legislative Clinic, UM law students have a unique opportunity to work directly with the MS Supreme Court and the MS AOC to help design good policy for the State of Mississippi to take better care of its most vulnerable citizens” says Debbie Bell, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs.