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Introduction to Supported Decision-Making

Level: Beginner
Runtime: 93 minutes
Recorded Date: April 22, 2021
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  • Define the less restrictive alternative to guardianship known as SDM.
  • Describe how SDM works and how it can incorporate other alternatives to guardianship such as Powers of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate Designations.
  • List three elements that are typically found in a SDM Agreement.
  • Recognize the importance of preserving decision-making rights and promoting self-determination and autonomy when working with clients who are older adults or have a disability.
Runtime: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Recorded: April 22, 2021


Supported Decision-Making (SDM) allows individuals, including older and disabled persons, to make their own decisions about their lives by choosing supporters they trust (e.g., friends, family members, professional) to help them understand, consider, and communicate decisions. Attendees will learn about the importance of preserving decision-making, self-determination, and autonomy and how SDM is implemented. The session will be co-presented by Michael Lincoln, an adult with an intellectual disability, and the first person in Florida to have his guardianship terminated in favor of SDM by a court.

This program was recorded on April 22nd, 2021.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Viviana Bonilla Lopez

Equal Justice Works

Viviana is a San Juan, Puerto Rico native passionate about mental health and disability justice.

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by the Florida Bar Foundation, Viviana is currently working to protect and restore the civil rights of people with disabilities in Miami-Dade County by expanding Supported Decision-Making as an alternative to guardianship.

In 2017, Viviana earned a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar.

In 2014, she graduated with the highest distinction from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, earning a BA in journalism with a minor in entrepreneurship. In 2011, she co-founded Rethink: Psychiatric Illness, a student organization aimed at raising awareness about mental illnesses and increasing help-seeking behaviors among students. In this role, she spearheaded the creation of the university’s first-ever mental health advocacy training, which had attracted over 700 students as of January 2017 and earned the organization the 2012 Diversity Award.

In the journalism field, she has experience as a writer, photographer, videographer, researcher, translator, and editor. Her work has been published in numerous publications including USA TODAY College and the Center for Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico.

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Michael Lincoln-McCreight

Self-Advocate & Supported Decision-Making Piorneer

Michael Lincoln-McCreight is the first person in Florida to terminate his guardianship using Supported Decision-Making (SDM). ?

Six years ago, Michael was a young adult with a developmental disability who participated in the Sheriff’s Explorers, volunteered at hospitals, went to church, and loved movies. But when a professional guardian filed a petition to find him incapacitated, all that changed. In September 2014, the Circuit Court of St. Lucie County declared Michael incapacitated. Though required by law to consider less restrictive alternatives, the court took away all of Michael's rights and appointed the public guardian to make all decisions for him. Michael's guardian restricted his every move and relationship, making his quality of life worse than before the guardianship. ?

Wanting to get his independence back, Michael contacted Disability Rights Florida for help. After fighting his case alongside his attorney, in 2016, a St. Lucie County judge finally terminated Michael's guardianship. The judge found that SDM was the least restrictive appropriate alternative to guardianship for Michael and that Michael could exercise his own rights using SDM. Months later, when Michael was invited to a podcast, he finally had the right to accept. He relied on his supporters to travel to Tallahassee, calling his uncle for advice and asking his friend for help buying a bus ticket.

?Today, Michael is a Self-Advocate who works with organizations like Stand Up for Independence, Family Care Counsel, and Disability Rights Florida to defend the rights of people with disabilities and promote SDM. Michael co-chairs SDM4FL, a coalition working to pass an SDM law so that all people with disabilities in Florida can have the chance he did to direct their own lives. Michael graduated from Indian River State College in 2020 with a Certificate in Security. Fulfilling his lifelong dream, he now works as a Security Guard for Universal Security Services. ?

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Dana Lloyd

Director, Developmental Disabilities Program
Georgia Advocacy Office

Dana Lloyd is Program Director at the Georgia Advocacy Office. She manages the Supported Decision-Making Project and development Disabilities Program.

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David Godfrey

Senior Attorney
ABA Commission on Law & Aging

David M. Godfrey, J.D., is a senior attorney to the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging in Washington DC. He is responsible for the ABA’s role in the Administration on Community Living funded National Center on Law and Elder Rights and for producing the ABA National Aging and Law Conference. David’s expertise includes supported decision making, advance care planning, health care decision making, legal service delivery, legal ethics, and LGBT aging. Prior to joining the Commission he was responsible for elder law programming at Access to Justice Foundation in Kentucky.

Mr. Godfrey earned his B.A. with honors at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and his J.D. cum laude from the University Of Louisville School Of Law in Kentucky.

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