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Wednesday, October 9, 2002 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

AoA Awards Almost $1.5 Million for Senior Legal Hotlines

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA) today announced the award of almost $1.5 million in grants to support the delivery of critical legal services to at-risk older Americans. The funding is for new awards and continuing Legal Hotlines that provide legal counseling and advice to older Americans on a myriad of legal questions.

"These hotlines provide advice and peace of mind to many of our most vulnerable seniors, who often struggle to deal with legal issues involving wills, health care and other issues,” HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said.

AoA’s Senior Legal Hotlines offer free or low-cost legal assistance to older people who are socially or economically disadvantaged, frail, or at-risk. Legal staff and specially trained volunteers provide advice on legal questions or problems, provide self-help materials, and refer older people to legal aid offices, pro-bono, or reduced-fee private attorneys who specialize in elder rights protection.

According to data reported in 2001 by the AARP Foundation, which administers the Technical Assistance Project for Statewide Legal Hotlines, 25% of the calls to Legal Hotlines involve wills, estates, probate, powers of attorney and guardianship; 18% involve consumer issues; 16% involve health issues including Medicare and Medicaid; 15% involve housing issues; and 7% involve family issues.

"Senior Legal Hotlines provide valuable resources for hard-to-reach, socially and economically disadvantaged older Americans and their families, who often lack access to information and basic advice when legal matters are concerned," said Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell, who heads the Administration on Aging.

AoA's eight new Statewide Senior Legal Hotline projects include:

Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Washington, DC. Established in 1987, this project will test and evaluate three innovations in legal hotline delivery: (1) increasing the productivity and decreasing the cost per case of hotlines by instituting the “short-delay” callback method: (2) a new way of handling brief services by using staff-supervised non-attorney volunteers for those clients who need more than legal advice but do not need full legal representation; and (3) developing a low-cost method of targeting hotline services for disadvantaged populations by using non-legal volunteers to assist seniors to access basic legal information through a website available for seniors at community service agencies.

Legal Services for the Elderly, Inc., Augusta, ME. This project, which began in 1992, will create new legal resources and expand access to legal services in Maine’s rural communities through a partnership with community health centers. The project will also build a coalition of community and law enforcement organizations and conduct outreach and education to address issues of elder abuse. Finally, the project will implement a pilot program to reduce barriers inherent in telephone services. Client service delivery will be improved by using an outcomes-based model to evaluate efficiency and effectiveness.

Access to Justice Foundation, Lexington, KY. Begun in1998, this project proposes to expand and strengthen its existing hotline to low-income rural seniors. The project plans to: (1) strengthen and expand the hotline’s services by emphasizing the use of technology; (2) design a Pilot Rural Outreach Project to demonstrate effective strategies for expanding client awareness and use of the Hotline; and (3) establish a program to assist seniors with consumer law issues and provide training to volunteer attorneys to increase their knowledge of consumer issues negatively impacting on seniors.

The South Carolina Centers for Equal Justice, Greenville, SC. A new grantee, this project proposes to enhance South Carolina’s current legal services intake system by establishing the “Serve Our Seniors Hotline (SOS),” which will improve access to legal services for seniors over 60 and serve as a reference bank for the state’s senior service offerings. The Hotline will provide counsel, advice, and brief and extended service for senior callers with legal needs. Referrals to senior service organizations throughout the state will also be available for those callers with non-legal needs.

Elder Law of Michigan, Lansing, MI. This project will build on the success of its existing Hotline and increase the numbers served with a traditional hotline. It will broaden its outreach to expand awareness among seniors on how to protect themselves from debt and steps to resolve indebtedness. The project will also provide opportunities for seniors to find new resources for health care and other benefits to improve their economic well-being using a comprehensive Coordinated Economic Assistance Screening Tool focusing on Veteran’s Benefits, unclaimed pensions, Medicare/Medicaid, state tax credits, and other benefits.

Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Baltimore, MD. This established hotline program will continue to collaborate with the Legal Aid Bureau and the Maryland Legal Assistance Network in an effort to provide accessible, high-quality legal information and assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged Maryland seniors. The grantee proposes undertaking three major initiatives:

  1. improving services available to non-English and low-English proficiency seniors by partnering with Asian American and Spanish advocacy and community groups;
  2. providing callers at all intake/access points with the most accurate, up-to-date legal information available; and
  3. educating seniors about enforcing their rights in debt collection and garnishment cases.

Connecticut Legal Services, Inc., Middletown, CT. This new project proposes to develop a hotline that will provide telephone access and high quality legal services to seniors who have consumer problems. The hotline will be a collaborative effort among several State agencies. Services to be provided will include easy client access to hotline staff through direct calls or referrals; training of AAA’s to identify issues; cross referral of clients; full service response to hotline clients throughout the state; and extensive outreach to Hispanic, African American, and rural elderly clients, as well as faith based organizations.

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc., Boise, ID. This project will establish a dedicated Senior Legal Hotline that will target rural elderly with an emphasis on disadvantaged seniors, seniors with disabilities, and Hispanic and Native American seniors. A Hotline Community Advisory Team comprised of representatives from both legal and non-legal service providers will assist in outreach. An interactive website will be developed to provide legal information through electronic brochures, pro se forms with instructions, and electronic intake systems. Local libraries will advertise the availability of their computers for seniors to access this website.

The following five hotline programs also received awards to continue their statewide legal hotlines:

  • Northwest Justice Program, Seattle, WA - $102,450
  • Legal Services Corporation of Iowa, Des Moines, IA - $100,000
  • Legal Services Organization of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN - $106,282
  • Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI - $35,000
  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. - $110,000

AoA also provided the AARP Legal Hotline Technical Assistance Project, Washington, DC with a $100,000 grant to provide technical assistance, support, information, and consultation to managers of legal hotlines.