After hiring a new director of guardianship in November, the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Pittsburgh now has power of attorney for its nearly 70 clients.
Nicole Iole, who had been a guardianship caseworker for the past two years with JF&CS, was named the director in December. She now administers the only guardianship program of its kind in Allegheny County — one that serves people with mental retardation.
The program at the JF&CS deals with clients between the ages of 18-50 who have been deemed incapacitated by a judge.
“We basically have clients who come to us privately and they have been deemed incapacitated,” Iole said. “They assign a guardian, usually us, and then we take on the role of guardian for our clients.”
Just added to the extensive list of services the program provides, in December, power of attorney was added to the programs contract with Allegheny County.
“This is the first time we’ve had a contract with Allegheny County to do power of attorney,” Iole said.
Power of Attorney, also referred to as POA, allows individuals to assign another person the power to make important life decisions if they are unable to do so.
“POA is used to ensure their future,” she continued. “They tell us what they want in the future, most of it is end of life care. “Clients who have POA with us normally have some kind of terminal illness.”
As the only guardianship program in the county, Iole’s small staff of two full-time caseworkers and an administrative assistant helps out Jews and non-Jews.
Before an individual is referred to the guardianship program there is extensive testing that the person must go through.
“There is extensive psychological testing that goes on,” Iole said. “They are looking to see if they can make their own decisions. These clients don’t know how to ensure their safety in their community or their home.”
Once an individual is in the guardianship program, Iole and her staff can look over any aspect of that person’s life.
“We manage their money, manage their health care, set up doctors appointments,” Iole said, “we will also evaluate them every month.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)