Establishing an Office of Public Guardian within state government is one legislative priority for the Department of Human Services.
The office would provide guardianship and conservator services for adults when family, friends or others are not willing or able to make health-care or general welfare decisions on behalf of a senior citizen or person with disabilities.Utah is one of seven states that does not have public guardianship services.
Ron Stromberg, assistant director of the state Division of Aging and Adult Services, said his office frequently receives telephone calls from hospitals, nursing homes and private citizens asking the state to intervene. For the most part, his hands are tied.
"It's very frustrating and disturbing, in my mind. It leaves a person at risk. The hospitals and nursing homes are doing the best they can, but sometimes you really do need an outside, independent person to make these decisions," Stromberg said.
The department also is seeking additional funding to increase the number of trained foster parents statewide and bolster foster-parent training programs. Gov. Mike Leavitt has recommended spending an additional $1 million toward this goal.