California Bar Journal
CBJ - July 2012 #05.
Lawyers Assistance Programe widens its scope to dementia
The California LawyerJuly 2012LAP widens its scope to dementiaStarted more than 10 years ago, the State Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program is known for being a resource for lawyers with mental health or substance abuse problems. Now, the program is planning to broaden its focus to include another population in need: lawyers showing signs of dementia.
In coming months, employees with the Lawyer Assistance Program, also known as the LAP, will receive training to help them recognize the signs of dementia and connect family members of attorneys who appear to be showing symptoms of the disease to resources.
"One of the big challenges is, how do you approach the person with the problem?" said the LAP's acting director Richard Carlton, who has done similar work for the federal courts. "The person experiencing the mental acuity issues often doesn't have any idea."
The new component of the program will help in a small way to address a ballooning problem. According to a 2009 report by the Alzheimer's Association, the number of Californians with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is expected to double by 2030 to more than 1.1 million.
The LAP program was established by the California Legislature in 2002. It is funded by statutorily mandated contributions. The goal of LAP is to enhance public protection by early detection and treatment of attorney behavior and health issues that could lead to client harm.
"Attorneys with dementia are unable to competently represent their clients," Carlton said. We aim to further protect the public by helping family members respond to signs of dementia early on."
The program was redesigned in 2011 to enhance the ability of attorneys to seek assistance before their problems affect their practice of law and become a professional discipline issue.
Attorneys now have the opportunity to receive program services and participate in its support groups in situations where monitoring and extensive staff resources are not needed.
To help attorneys who may only need short-term assistance, while introducing them to the resources the LAP has to offer, there is now an orientation and assessment service component...