2016 MAGiC Awards
Organizational Award: MN WINGS, represented by Ben Ashley-Wurtmann
Given to an organization which has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship
In 2015, The Supreme Court of Minnesota was awarded a grant from the National Guardianship Network which provided seed monies and technical assistance to states to create innovative, consensus-driven Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS). According to the NGN, “by combining the efforts of all stakeholders into WINGS, states can better improve judicial processes, protect individual rights, address insufficient funding, ensure guardian accountability and fiduciary standards, and provide for less restrictive decision-making options”.
The success of this grant was entirely attributable to the leadership of Ben Ashley Wurtmann, along with an active Steering Committee who were responsible for seeking the grant, and then carrying out the activities in 2015 and 2016. Before WINGS MN was established, an informal stakeholder group, the Substitute Decision Making Network (SDMN), had been meeting for several years, and had developed significant levels of trust and understanding between members, but lacked many of the resources needed for implementation. Parallel to this, the MN Judicial Branch had begun efforts on these issues, including a stakeholder engagement process led by Judges Jamie Anderson and Michael Kirk. The WINGS grant came at an opportune time, and provided a spark to bring these efforts together in a meaningful way. WINGS MN has benefitted from the contributions of Steering Committee members from organizations such as: Department of Human Services Adult Protection, Public Guardianship Office, Office of the Ombudsman for Older Minnesotans; Lutheran Social Services MN; Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and MN Disability Law Center; University of St. Thomas Law School; Hennepin County District Court; Volunteers of America MN, and MN Judicial Branch.
With this formal collaboration, Minnesota took significant steps in creating broad based quality improvement in guardianship and conservatorship under the WINGS banner in 2015-2016. WINGS MN sponsored two Guardianship Summits, which laid the foundation for annual Guardianship Summits. At the first summit, Chief Justice Gildea provided a powerful charge to the group, outlining the commitments the Judicial Branch had already made to these issues, and promising careful consideration for any recommendations brought forward through WINGS. A WINGS-sponsored statewide survey of stakeholders formed the foundation of subgroup implementation and action plans, whose work is carried forward to date: Education/Outreach, Less Restrictive Alternatives, and Monitoring and Oversight.
In 2016 WINGS MN organized two webinars on Supported Decision Making, drawing large audiences of professionals, family members, and other stakeholders. Participants came out with big ideas and questions about how guardianship and conservatorship might be reimagined. WINGS MN carried that momentum into a second summit in February, which resulted in further feedback and input on how to move forward on creating better education for guardians and conservators and how to modify court forms to better reflect best practices and statutory requirements prioritizing less restrictive alternatives.
Ben and the Steering Committee, along with work-group members continue to work on educational opportunities, the court forms revision process, and preparing for on-line and in person training for guardians and conservators. WINGS Minnesota is dedicated to: Supporting guardians/conservators, particularly family members or friends, through education to better understand best practices and their responsibilities; Building awareness of processes that ensure that less restrictive alternatives are the default choice; and Sustaining a cooperative conversation where all members work to improve outcomes and increase self-determination for individuals who may need assistance making legal or medical choices.
For these reasons, MAGiC is pleased to recognize WINGS MN with this Organizational Award.
Judiciary or Legal Award: The Honorable Jamie Anderson
Given to a person in the legal or judiciary area who has done outstanding work in the field of guardianship or conservatorship
Judge Jamie Anderson was nominated for her work in developing the Elder Care Coordination program; continued improvements in working with MyMNConservator; building awareness of the issues involved in guardianship/conservatorship; care and respect for incapacitated persons appearing in her courtroom and advocating for less restrictive alternatives where available.