NEW YORK—The Vera Institute of Justice has named Laura Negrón as director of its Guardianship Project, an innovative program that courts can appoint to provide legal, social, and other support services to elderly and disabled people in New York City whom a judge has determined cannot care for themselves. As director, Negrón oversees a staff of lawyers, social workers, and financial managers. Working together, they arrange for health and home care and property- and money-management assistance that enable many clients to remain independent, rather than be sent to nursing homes. The result is a higher quality of life for clients and substantial Medicaid savings for the state.
Negrón has more than 30 years of public interest experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, community relations, and program development across a variety of areas including elder care, youth programs, higher education, government, social services, and the law. Most recently, she served as a staff attorney in the Nassau County Attorney’s Office. She previously served as dean of institutional advancement for Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus and was a Charles Revson Public Interest Fellow at Human Rights Watch.
Vera established the Guardianship Project at the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in 2005 as an experimental response to the absence of a statewide public guardian program. Traditionally, New York judges have appointed private attorneys to represent elderly or disabled people considered in need of guardianship. In contrast, a judge who assigns a case to the Guardianship Project effectively assigns a project team to create an individualized care plan that addresses the client’s needs, substantially improving the client’s ability to remain at home. David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the New York State Office of Court Administration, has called the project “an outstanding program” that “has served incapacitated people in an outstanding way.”
The Guardianship Project has served roughly 200 clients since its inception, and it has saved New York State more than $5.4 million, with more than $2.3 million saved in 2009 alone.
“Most lawyers assigned as guardians are paid from the clients’ assets,” said Negrón. “However, our clients often have no assets, which means that these lawyers would have little incentive to give them the time needed to ensure that they are able to remain safely in their own homes. It takes a great deal of time, planning, and energy to keep someone out of a nursing care facility, but our effort pays off in a better quality of life for extremely vulnerable people and a net savings for the state.”
“The director of the Guardianship Project must be like the project itself: well versed in the personal as well as the legal issues of guardianship care,” said Vera’s director, Michael Jacobson. “We are extremely fortunate to have found such a person in Laura Negrón.”
A graduate of Hunter College with a master’s degree in social work, Negrón also holds a JD from the City University of New York’s School of Law, where she was managing editor of the New York City Law Review, and she is a member of the New York State Bar.
Negrón succeeds Jean Callahan, founding director of the Guardianship Project, who left Vera to become co-director of Hunter College’s Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity and director of its Sadin Institute on Law and Public Policy.