|Vol. 7, Nos. 1 & 2||
On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons
A special highlight of the Joint Conference on Law & Aging each year is the Awards Luncheon, at which the Arthur S. Flemming Award and the Paul Lichterman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services for Older Americans are presented. This year, the Lichterman Award went to Wilma Salmon, Legal Services Developer for Louisiana; and the Flemming Award to Samuel Simmons, President of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged. Below we pay tribute to Wilma Salmon, the Lichterman recipient. In the next issue of Best Practice Notes, we will pay similar tribute to Samuel Simmons.
Like Paul Lichterman, Wilma Salmon is an idealist, an optimist, and a source of unending ideas and energy. Following 30 years as a social worker serving families and children, Wilma entered law school so that she could better address issues of social justice at a systems level rather than on a case-by-case basis. She earned her J.D. in 1982 and in 1983 began work as Legal Services Developer for the elderly of Louisiana. As Developer, she has accomplished the difficult but critical task of educating aging service providers about the need for legal services and its role in systems change. She coordinated coalition-building efforts long before the Older Americans Act even suggested that such duties were the responsibility of the developer. She has tackled numerous issues of crucial importance to the most vulnerable aged, such as elder abuse, advance directives, nursing home rights, and many others. Throughout her work, she has always kept as her primary focus the need to support the rights of older persons and to help them make decisions for themselves, even when those decisions were not supported by their familial and/or caretaking network.
Most recently, Wilma has focused her efforts on convening aging and legal services providers to develop a long-range plan for legal services that incorporates the full spectrum of programs and services for the elderly. A select group consisting of Title III legal providers, pro bono attorneys, and a representative of the Louisiana State Bar Association, has met three times to discuss these issues, develop resources, and share information and ideas. She will continue to lead this effort, responding to legislative changes affecting LSC and Older Americans Act programs.
Wilma's contributions have been vast, not only in the area of developing legal assistance resources and working for key legislative and administrative reforms, but also in the inspiration she provides for others. She has been described as a "role model," a "sounding board and strategic planner," and an "unfailing source of wisdom, clarity, and honesty." She is known for her eloquence, dedication, enthusiasm and "force of personality," and as one of her former students stated, "Wilma gave me heart."
These personal attributes and her many accomplishments attest to Wilma's commitment to advancing quality legal assistance and access to the system of justice for older persons in Louisiana. Her strong sense of purpose and direction, ability to inspire those around her, enthusiasm, and natural wisdom have made her a forceful advocate, and most deserving of the Paul Lichterman Award. Congratulations, Wilma!
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