Supported Decision-Making

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, Governor Sununu signed SB 134, which establishes Supported Decision Making (SDM) as a statutorily-recognized alternative to guardianship for adults with disabilities and their families.




How is Supported Decision-Making Different from Guardianship?

  • Guardianship: The person with disabilities loses the legal right to make their own decisions. Instead, the guardian makes decisions for the person with the disability. The guardian should consider the wants and needs of the person with the disability, but that does not always happen.
  • Supported decision-making: The person with disabilities gets the information and assistance they need from trusted supporters, so that they can understand, make, and communicate their own decisions.

Why Choose Supported Decision-Making?

Supported decision-making allows a person with disabilities to retain the freedom to make their own choices to the best of their abilities.  It allows them to stay in control of their life, be more independent, and have better life outcomes. All of these benefits are possible through supported decision-making and without the need for a guardian.


How Does Supported Decision-Making Work?

There is not one method of using supported decision-making.  Each person’s situation is unique.  Since each supported decision-making agreement is designed to best support the individual with disabilities, each agreement will look different.

Below are some examples of how a supporter might work with a person with disabilities to ensure the person is involved in all decisions and able to make their own informed choices:

  • Use plain language materials and present information in multiple ways (video, audio, print).
  • Request extra time for the person with disabilities to make their decision so the supporter can provide information about, and discuss, choices.
  • Ensure the person with disabilities understands their choices by creating lists of pros and cons.
  • Prepare the person with disabilities to communicate their decisions by role playing how they will inform others of their choices.
  • Accompany the person with disabilities to important appointments to take notes and help them remember and discuss their options.
  • Set up and help monitor payment tools such as auto-payments or bill management notification apps.

In addition to a supported decision-making agreement, the person with disabilities may consider using a healthcare proxy, power of attorney, and/or advance directive.



Disability Rights Center-NH and the Institute on Disability at UNH hosted a panel discussion on supported decision making and other alternatives to guardianship and how such laws and related policies can inhibit or promote the voices of people with disabilities.

Screen shot of panelists and ASL interpreter on Zoom

Event Recording & Materials

Live captioning and ASL interpreting were supported by the NH Bar Foundation Advancement of Justice Fund. Additional support was provided by the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities.



About DRCNH

Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire. DRC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for New Hampshire and has authority under federal law to conduct investigations in cases of probable abuse or neglect.


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