Increasing Access to Legal Assistance for Elders Through Strategic Collaboration

Legal Assistance Enhancement Project (LAEP) leaps into its 3rd year!

In partnership with Legal Services of North Florida and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA), Legal Services is engaged in improving access to legal assistance for elders (at least 60 years old) with critical needs:

· elders who have been victimized by consumer scams & other financial or economic exploitation

· elders recovering from disasters

· elders who are homeless or on the cusp of homelessness

· elders who are victims of physical abuse.


Through the Legal Assistance Enhancement Project (LAEP), we offer a holistic approach to the delivery of legal services by focusing on:

1. Incorporating the DOEA’s Legal Risk Detector application into Florida’s existing Florida Legal Online Intake system,

2. Provider outreach, consultations, and technical assistance calls, and

3. Delivery of direct legal assistance to elders.

Our casework is as diverse as the population we serve,” says Legal Services Staff Attorney Alice Kerr, who is deeply committed to this project. “What makes this initiative exciting is the emphasis placed on helping elder services’ providers make direct, comprehensive referrals directly to legal aid advocates, improving timeliness and quality of service to a vulnerable population.”


Here are a few recent examples of successful outcomes:


Resolved Debt Collection Harassment for Elder - H.M. had disputed a medical bill debt but continued to receive harassing phone calls from bill collectors. After sending a Cease-and-Desist letter and investigating the debt dispute, Legal Services learned the debt was caused by a medical billing code error. Alice contacted the claims agent and had the correct bill resubmitted to the carrier. As a result, H.M. stopped receiving collection notices and harassing calls, and her medical bill was paid.


Assisted Elders with Accomplishing Estate Planning Goals – Multiple elderly clients have received assistance with Estate Planning and Advance Directives through the LAEP project. Most notable are those seeking assistance with a will to leave their property to a family member. Legal Services advised the clients about different options that allow the client to maintain the property but then have a beneficiary receive the property without the complex and expensive probate process. Our clients now have peace of mind knowing a Legal Services attorney drafted the deed and had it recorded, so their property rights are protected.


Connected Housebound Elder with Transportation Resources - A community partner referred A.D. to Legal Services using the Elder Risk Detector Tool, which screens for legal issues. A.D. was housebound and having difficulty keeping his medical appointments due to a lack of transportation. With the assistance of Legal Services, A.D. learned and applied for programs, such as Golden Passport (free rides on Miami-Dade Transit) and Special Transportation Services (reduced fare ride services), which now offers him an affordable, convenient way to remain mobile and most importantly attend his doctor’s appointments.


To apply for services, please visit https://www.legalservicesmiami.org/self-help or call 305-576-0080.

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