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BETHLEHEM — The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs is looking for volunteers to join the Surrogate Decision Making Committee.
The committee, formed in 1988 under Gov. Mario Cuomo is the first volunteer group in the country. It is charged with making major medical decisions — including end-of-life decisions — for people with special needs when there is no legal guardian to take the responsibility,
“This program provides a vital service for individuals with intellectual disabilities who lack decision-making capability,” said Justice Center Executive Director Denise Miranda. “We are indebted to the panel members who volunteer their time to ensure that medical treatment decisions are made in a timely manner and are based on the best interests of the individual and reflect that person’s beliefs and values.”
The SDMC is called upon when a decision about medical care involving an individual receiving services is needed, individuals themselves are incapable of making the decision and there is no legal guardian to do so. Panels are composed of a licensed health care professional, licensed state attorney, family member or former client or relative, and a person who has recognized expertise or demonstrated an interest in the care and treatment of individuals with a behavioral health or an intellectual disability.
Persons interested in volunteering as a panel member need to submit an application to the Justice Center, complete training and affirm an oath of office. Volunteers serve for two-year terms and may be reappointed for additional two-year terms.
Those interested should visit the SDMC web page or contact SDMC at [email protected]
The call for volunteers comes on the 30th anniversary of the permanent creation of SDMC. It was created as a pilot project in 1985, was expanded statewide in 2001, and came under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center in 2013.
The committee has received more than 26,000 cases to date. It is composed of 1,300 volunteers, seven of whom have served the full 30 years. Hearings are conducted in every county in the state.
The Justice Center, based on Delaware Avenue in Delmar, was created in 2013 and operates a toll-free hotline for people to report allegations of abuse, neglect, and significant incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also investigates and prosecutes allegations of abuse and neglect in state run or funded facilities for the disabled.