Life Essentials Expanding into Shelby County

Dayton, Ohio (December, 2023) – Lisa Brown is no stranger to Life Essentials, having served as its director until 2016. She left to work in child welfare for Montgomery County, but now has found her way back.

Life Essentials merged with Catholic Social Services in 2020. The program underwent some turnover before installing Brown as the new program manager under Kathy Sell, Northern Office Director who oversees all CSSMV programming for older adults.

A graduate of Colonel White High School in Dayton, Brown studied Mental Health at Sinclair before receiving her degree in Social Work from Capital University. She completed a Master of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati. As well as case management work, she served as the Director of Agency Development at Big Brothers Big Sisters before coming to Life Essentials.

“Guardianship is difficult but rewarding work,” said Brown. “Our job is to go above and beyond to make sure that vulnerable people are safe and protected.”

The first step in seeking guardianship is a referral from a doctor, long-term care facility, or hospital. After an investigation that includes searching for next of kin, an assessment is completed. If the person is considered eligible (indigent, lacking family or friends willing or able to act as a guardian), CSSMV files an application and motion for a hearing through the county Probate Court. The judge determines whether the individual lacks the capacity to make decisions about their health and well-being, and if so, appoints a guardian.

Brown and her staff of eight provide protection for approximately 200 wards in Montgomery and Greene Counties. Currently there are 50 individuals waiting, and with the aging population growing in numbers, that list continues to grow.

It is a hefty caseload now, but it is about to get a lot busier. After considerable planning and working with Probate Judge Jeff Beigel in Sidney, CSSMV Life Essentials services are now available in Shelby County. Guardianship was earmarked in the Generations Campaign as one of the programs to be expanded. Shelby County is a first step and conversations are now beginning in Miami County as well.

“It is rewarding to know that we are a trusted partner in helping these people who have no one else to advocate for them,” said Brown.

“Guardianship involves making many decisions for those who cannot, including what kind of care best suits the individual’s needs and what additional services would ensure that the individual has the best quality of life possible.”

Going beyond the court mandate of four visits per year, our staff visit each ward once a month in their place of residence, observing living conditions and watching for signs of neglect. As the  program expands, more guardians are needed. They can be paid staff or volunteers. Six hours of training is required by the State of Ohio, as well as three continuing education credits each year.

“In addition to the basic requirements, our guardians belong to the Ohio Guardianship Association, and receive training in mental health first aid and suicide prevention,” said Brown. “This work  can be intimidating, so we want our guardians to have as much training as possible. We conduct research about the best treatment protocols, medication dosages, and applicable laws, but when  life or death decisions are difficult, we always defer to the court.”