Recently, The Kansas City Star did a story on the Office of the Public Administrator for Jackson County.

The Office of the Public Administrator was first enacted under Missouri law in 1880. State Statue 473.743 states that the office is charged with taking into his or her charge and custody the estates of all deceased persons, and the person and estates of all minors, and the estates or person and estate of all incapacitated persons in his or her county.

In Missouri, every county (and the city of St. Louis) has a public administrator to act as both guardian and conservator.

As guardian, the public administrator is appointed by the court. Their responsibilities include the care, support and maintenance of mentally incapacitated persons, to act as personal representatives of deceased estates, and conservators of minor estates. By far the majority of the workload in the office is under the guise of guardian/conservator for mentally disabled persons.

Since 2000, Rebbecca Lake Wood has headed the Office of Public Administrator in Jackson County. She is one of only four public administrators statewide who is an attorney. She is past president of both the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and Eastern Jackson County Bar Association. She has been involved in Missouri Partners in Crisis Commission. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and later her law degree there.

Wood and her staff of 26 serve approximately 1,200 clients, most of whom suffer from severe mental illness and lack the capacity to care for themselves without causing serious physical injury to others or themselves. The staff is dedicated to the work it does, as staff members are often called upon to work around the clock to ensure the safety of their clients.

The services this office provides to the people of Jackson County are invaluable as they are often services of last resort. Many times clients no longer have family, or their family is no longer able to provide the necessary care because of severe health needs. The work done by Rebbecca Lake Wood and her staff is tough and many times thankless ... but in the end, it’s work that has to be done.