Supported Decision-Making in Texas
Texas was the first state to adopt Supported Decision-Making Agreements (SDMA) as an alternative to guardianship for disabled persons needing assistance in making decisions about their health, finances, food shelter or clothing. For disabled adults who are capable of making decisions for themselves, but just need some help and may not have a family member or close friend who can do that, a SDMA may be a good solution.
Unlike a guardianship, a SDMA allows an adult disabled person who needs assistance to enter into an informal written agreement with anyone they choose without giving up any rights or needing to go to court. The agreement must be signed by the disabled person, the supporter and two witnesses (or a notary). Either the person needing help or the supporter can revoke the agreement at any time. Some of the reasons for revoking the agreement might be:
· the supporter no longer can provide the necessary decision support
· the disabled person no longer needs help with decision making
· the disabled person doesn’t like the way the supporter is handling things, or
· the person’s condition has changed so that he or she no longer has the capacity to make decisions in one or more areas of life and needs to have a guardian appointed.
The way it works is that the person needing assistance selects someone they likely know and trust, perhaps a friend or neighbor, or maybe a person who has knowledge, skills or experience helping others with decision-making. The disabled person then decides what types of decisions they need help with, such as obtaining food or clothing, getting a place to live, physical or mental health issues, managing money or property, finding a job, getting education, or obtaining services or supports, or other life issues.
In order to assist the person needing help, the supporter is given the authority to:
· get the information necessary to make decisions regarding their medical, psychological, financial or education needs
· help the person understand that information and the choices, implications and consequences involved, and
· assist the person in communicating his or her decision appropriately.
The National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making offers a free brainstorming guide to help a disabled person and his or her family or friends think through what kind of support the person currently has in various contexts and what else might be needed, either now or in the future. The type of agreement needed is spelled out in the Supported Decision-Making Act in the Texas Estate Code, Chapter 1357. Pre-printed forms are available from various organizations, including the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, The Arc of Texas , or Texas Law Help.