NASHVILLE – The Senate unanimously approved legislation on final consideration on Monday which would help individuals with disabilities have as much independence in their decision making as possible when a court is considering conservatorships or other actions to protect their best interest. Senate Bill 264 defines “least restrictive alternatives,” a term which is already in Tennessee law, as “techniques and processes that preserve as many decision-making rights as possible for the person with a disability.”
“This legislation helps to ensure that when a conservatorship is pursued, it is, in fact, the least restrictive alternative for that person as required under current law,” said Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), sponsor of the bill. “This generation of people with disabilities has more opportunities than previous generations. They are educated with their peers without disabilities; go to college; get jobs; get married; go out with friends; and live fully included lives in their communities. They need an option that supports them to make decisions without removing their rights.”
“Defining it in law ensures that all parties – families, attorneys, judges, educators, health care practitioners, and others – recognize it is not the only option for many of those who have disabilities,” she added.
Research supports that when people are empowered to make their own decisions, to the maximum extent possible, they are better able to recognize abusive situations and surround themselves with healthy relationships. Massey said the courts are committed to working with the disability community to provide training for judges on how least restrictive alternatives can be employed to maximize independence for people with disabilities, while minimizing the risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The bill is sponsored by Representative Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) in the House of Representatives.