What is Supported Decision-making?
Supported decision-making (SDM) lets adults with disabilities make their own decisions with the help of people they trust. We all use SDM, whether it’s asking a parent for financial advice or a coworker to suggest a repair shop.
All types of people use SDM, including individuals with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or mental illness. SDM is also becoming popular with older adults.
Unlike other alternatives to guardianship, all decision-making authority remains with the person. A person can make their own choices and decisions, as long as they don’t cause serious bodily injury or harm others. They can ask for help, say “no,” or change supporters at any time.
A Supported Decision-Making Agreement (SDMA) may cover the decisions a person wants help with – like money, health, education, or housing. It can also say who a person wants to support them and how they do or don’t want to be supported.
A supporter can help a person understand and explore options; explain the risks and benefits of choices; assist with getting information; share ideas; and/or help a person communicate and carry out their decision.
Supported decision making is simply another option. A person does not have to use it if it has not or will not work for them. However, studies show a person using SDM has greater self-determination and is less likely to experience abuse.
Why Does Utah Need this Proposed Legislation and What Does it Do?
While a person can use SDM now, the bill gives a supporter legal status; clarifies what they can and can’t do; and requires third parties, like teachers, doctors, and banks, to accept supported decision making agreements.
In response to parents’, lawyers’, and doctors’ suggestions, the bill includes protections such as:
- requiring a person, with or without help, to understand an SDMA before they can use it;
- identifying who can and cannot be a supporter;
- requiring a supporter to disclose an actual or perceived conflict of interest, and allowing the person to cancel a transaction from which a supporter benefits unless it is fair to the person;
- not allowing a supporter to overly influence or make a decision for the person;
- information access and confidentiality requirements;
- maintaining a supporter’s responsibility to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation;
- requiring a guardian’s permission if a protected person wants to use an SDMA in an area covered by the guardianship;
- liability protection if a third-party acts on an SDMA in good faith; and
- specifying situations under which a supported decision-making agreement may be terminated.
*18 states, including Alabama and Texas, and DC have supported decision-making laws.*