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Public Guardianship in Washington State: Costs and Benefits

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Mason Burley - December 2011

Guardians are court-appointed legal representatives who have the authority to make personal, medical, and financial decisions on behalf of incapacitated individuals. Washington State implemented a pilot program in 2007 to provide public (state-paid) guardianship services for individuals whose family members were unable to serve as a guardian, or the individual did not have financial resources to pay for a guardian.

This evaluation examines program outcomes and cost effectiveness for clients served by public guardians between 2008 and mid-2011. Our analysis over this period found the following:

• Average residential costs per client decreased by $8,131 over the 30-month study period. The average cost for providing a public guardian was $7,907 per client during that time.

• Personal care decreased by an average of 29 hours per month for public guardianship clients, compared with an increase in care hours for similar clients.

• One in five public guardianship clients showed improvements in self-sufficiency during the study.

This report discusses the characteristics and outcomes of public guardianship clients and presents related research on outcomes for public guardianship programs outside Washington State. While we found positive results for public guardianship clients in this evaluation, without a randomly assigned control group (that did not receive services), it is difficult to determine the extent to which public guardians may have contributed to these outcomes.

Report ID: 11-12-3902
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