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Older Tennesseans will have improved access to legal services thanks to a federal grant received by the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability from the U.S Administration for Community Living.

This grant will provide funds each year for three years to study the legal needs of older Tennesseans and then develop an integrated system for helping at-risk older adults. The total award of the grant is just a little more than $300,000.

The "Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems-Phase I" program is a partnership between the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD) and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS). The grant is designed to help Tennessee respond more effectively to legal issues affecting seniors with significant social or economic needs.

In Tennessee, the funding will be used to develop services specifically for seniors through a tollfree statewide legal hotline, as well as to provide legal training and outreach. Another goal of the grant is to build and strengthen partnerships throughout the state with the court system, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Adult Protective Services, Legal Aid Societies, state and local bar associations, the Area Agencies on Aging and Disability, and others. This will lead to a more coordinated and efficient system for legal services and supports for the elderly.

TCAD Director Jim Shulman emphasizes that, "As the number of older adults living in Tennessee continues to grow, more and more older Tennesseans are in need of legal assistance with issues ranging from income security and planning documents to abuse and protective services. The importance of access to quality legal assistance and supports cannot be overestimated. This grant provides Tennessee an opportunity to support this growing need and to strengthen and enhance our collaborations with public, private, and non-profit community partners."

"Since 1977, TALS, a statewide nonprofit, has been dedicated to advocating for justice for disadvantaged Tennesseans and serving the public interest by improving access to civil legal assistance. This grant provides us an exciting opportunity to enhance the services we provide to the elderly population," says Ann Pruitt, Executive Director of TALS. At the end of the three-year grant period, TCAD will prepare a report on the cost-effective, well integrated legal services systems developed as a direct result of this grant.

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