Public Defender Service Corporation wants to make Elder Justice Center permanent

The Guam Public Defender Service (PNC file photo)

The Public Defender Service Corporation is hoping that its program to provide legal services to manamko will get another lease on life.

After a six-month run, the Public Defender Service Corporation wants to make its Elder Justice Center permanent.

Katherine Siguenza, managing attorney of the Elder Justice Center, said: “This is a pilot program. We were given six months, which ends in September. So we’re hopeful that it will be extended, because in just three short months, with the minimum outreach that we’ve done, we’ve increased that waitlist from 242, where we started, to almost 500. So that’s showing us that there’s a clear need in our community for these services.”

The Elder Justice Center provides four primary services: powers of attorney, living wills, Do Not Resuscitate orders, and guardianships.

Rather than just provide straightforward advice, Siguenza said that they also aim to provide guidance on how to negotiate complex legal matters in a way that empowers and educates the elderly and their relatives, especially as they prepare to deal with the possibility of their elderly relative becoming less and less capable as time goes on.

Siguenza said that they’ve also seen numerous instances of elder abuse both physical and financial.

However, the program’s ability to address those issues is limited because it’s currently outside its scope.

Stephen Hattori, the executive director of the Public Defender Service Corporation, said that the aim is to make the program permanent so that the Elder Justice Center can do more than just provide legal advice but make real change.

“Because of the waitlist, we’re tackling the low-hanging fruit, and the things that require the most … the greatest in demand. But once we’re made permanent, we’re going to expand our services because we’re hoping it’ll be a clearinghouse and advocate for elder justice issues. Not just providing legal advice,” Hattori said.