Public Guardianship in Florida

Public guardians are guardians of last resort. They are appointed as the guardian by Florida for adults who are determined to be incapacitated and cannot care for themselves, and who have no family/friends who could act as guardian and who do not have sufficient assets or income to justify a private guardian. Public guardianship in Florida is managed administratively by The Office of Public & Professional Guardians (OPPG), housed within the Department of Elder Affairs. Among other duties, OPPG is responsible for appointing, contracting with, and monitoring public guardians statewide for each judicial circuit. These local public guardian offices are directed by statute to provide direct-guardianship services to persons over whom they are court-appointed as the guardian for.

The most common diagnoses for clients of Florida’s local public guardianship offices are:

  • Age-related disabilities, which may occur as a natural progression of aging and are therefore considered as an acquired disability.  Examples include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, etc.
  • Developmental disabilities, which are defined by Florida law as a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, or Prader-Willi syndrome; that manifests before the age of 18; and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely.  (Chapter 393.06(12), F.S.
  • Brain injury, which is defined in two ways by the Brain Injury Association. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as an alteration in brain function or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating). Often referred to as an acquired brain injury, a non-traumatic brain injury causes damage to the brain by internal factors, such as a lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins, pressure from a tumor, etc.
  • Mental-health disabilities, which are defined by the National Mental Health Institute as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.  Some examples of mental health conditions include anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic-stress disorder, and psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia) etc.

OPPG can be reached by calling (850) 414-2381 or by email at OPPGinfo@elderaffairs.org.

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