SNA Member Reginald Turnbull Wins Prestigious Advocacy Award

SNA member Reginald (Reg) H. Turnbull, Turnbull & Stark, Jefferson City, Missouri, will receive the 2013 Powley Elder Law Award from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). This distinction recognizes community leadership regarding the rights and needs of the elderly and individuals with special needs. He will direct the award’s $1000 charitable contribution to local groups that focus on mental health and residential services for individuals with disabilities.

Reg was first inspired to serve others while working as a medical aide in a university hospital’s surgery intensive care unit. Law school followed, launching him into a government career.

Working first as an assistant attorney general for Missouri, and then as deputy director of the state’s Department of Mental Health, he was instrumental in the passage of legislation that broke new ground for the disability community. He was on the drafting committees for both the Missouri Omnibus Mental Health Act of 1980, which mandated community-based services for individuals with special needs, and the Missouri Guardianship Revision Act (1983), which he describes as a mental health rewrite that changed civil commitment law. He was a hands-on lobbyist for both bills, “spending every day at the state legislature and sometimes rewriting legislation on the spot.”

Since 1991, Reg has been in private practice, focusing on elder and disabilities law. “I’m committed to preserving as much independence as possible for individuals with special needs,” he says. When developing a special needs trust, for instance, he always asks to meet the beneficiary. “There’s often a tension between the individual’s right to autonomy and the parents’ concern about their well-being. This is especially poignant in situations involving mental illness or when someone has Asperger’s. Where do you draw the line? I try to help families work through this conflict.”

A founding member of the Special Needs Alliance, Reg is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) through the National Elder Law Foundation and has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in elder law each year since 2005. He is co-chair of MO-WINGS, an interdisciplinary network of guardianship stakeholders who are rewriting Missouri’s guardianship code. He received his B.A. from Northwest Missouri State University and his J.D. from the University of Missouri.