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News Item
Minnesota program to prevent financial abuse earns two more national awards

Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nationally-celebrated program earns four awards in 2015

On Saturday, September 26, the Minnesota Judicial Branch received the 2015 Paul H. Chapman Award from the Foundation for Improvement of Justice in recognition of the Judicial Branch’s efforts to better protect elderly and vulnerable adults from financial abuse.
 
The award recognized the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP), which is a nation-leading initiative to protect the assets of vulnerable individuals – persons with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or traumatic brain injuries – for whom the court has appointed a conservator to manage the individual’s financial affairs. The award was presented at a Foundation for Improvement of Justice ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia.
 
In addition, the Court Information Technology Officers Consortium (CITOC) honored CAAP – which includes a first-of-its-kind online reporting system for conservators – with a 2015 CITOC Innovation Award at its annual meeting in Minneapolis on September 21, 2015. The CITOC Innovation Award recognizes notable contributions to the judiciary in technology and court business processes.
 
In total, CAAP has been recognized with state and national awards four times in 2015. On July 14, the National Association for Court Management presented CAAP with its 2015 Justice Achievement Award. Later in July, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs named CAAP one of its 2015 State Government Innovation Award winners.
 
“We are honored to have this overwhelming recognition of our efforts to provide better oversight of conservators, and are even more grateful that this recognition is spurring action to implement similar programs in other states across the country,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “Conservators are entrusted with a tremendous amount of authority over the financial livelihoods of elderly and vulnerable individuals. Through CAAP, we have strengthened our ability to ensure conservators are acting responsibility, ethically, and legally as they work in the best interest of those they serve.”
 
About the Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP)
 
Through CAAP, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has modernized and improved the way the state oversees the work of conservators. Before the implementation of CAAP, conservator records were submitted to the court on paper, frequently accompanied by boxes of receipts and other documentation. This unwieldy process put a heavy burden on local district court staff responsible for overseeing the work of conservators. The CAAP program changed this process in two fundamental ways:
 
  • Conservators now submit transactions through an intuitive, online reporting system that has the look and feel of many popular financial applications. This system, called MyMNConservator, is the first and only online mandatory reporting tool for conservators in the country. It provides text and video support for conservators, automatically performs calculations, and provides ready access to expense and receipt details. Most importantly, the system contains built-in “red flag” logic that automatically reviews filed accounts and alerts auditors to possible errors, inconsistencies, or transactions that require further review.
  • The program also established a centralized conservator account auditing center, staffed by a team of trained experts who conduct compliance audits on conservator accounts from across the state. By centralizing this important auditing work, CAAP has led to stronger oversight of conservatorship accounts, while freeing up significant staff resources at the district court level.  
Today, CAAP is monitoring the assets of 4,600 vulnerable individuals in Minnesota, with assets totaling more than $720 million.
 
The stronger oversight of conservator accounts provided by CAAP is already resulting in better protection of elderly and vulnerable adults. In nearly 14 percent of cases audited under the program, auditors have found concerns of loss, inappropriate loans or expenditures, or commingling of funds. Audit letters have frequently prompted repayment of funds from conservators. Hearings held on these audits have resulted in discharge of conservators, judgments and orders for repayment, and criminal prosecution and conviction.
 
This enhanced oversight of conservators is especially important considering recent statistics highlighting the growing amount of money lost through exploitation of elders in the United States. A 2011 MetLife Study estimated the national annual financial loss at $2.9 billion dollars – an increase of 12 percent over their findings in 2008. More recently, the 2015 True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse estimated that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse.
 
As other states respond to the troubling increase in elder financial abuse, CAAP has quickly become one of the most effective and celebrated conservator auditing programs in the country. The National Center for State Courts is coordinating a plan to share the MyMNConservator online reporting system, along with other program elements, with other states across the country.