by Eliza Schafler
Eliza Schafler is an MHAS Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Over the course of my work at our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP), I began to notice that something was missing. We had amazing mental health professionals working with children and parents, and we had legal assistance to address serious barriers to family stability and wellness. But we didn’t have enough case management.

My clients without case managers could not always fill in the gaps between health care and legal assistance. If through legal assistance they learned they had to find a new home rather than face eviction proceedings, they had no guidance on how to find affordable housing. If through legal assistance they realized their expenses were unsustainable, they needed a link to financial counseling. If through legal assistance they learned for the first time that they were eligible for public benefits, they needed help filling out applications. Sometimes, they just needed someone to help them make appointments and keep things on track.

After we discussed these problems together, we decided to make a change. For every case at the Family Resource Center that requires BeHeLP legal intervention, we will now automatically add a case manager as well. Now each family will receive mental health care, legal assistance, and case management. And they can find it all in one place: a community center they know and trust.

This is not the kind of change that springs directly from one-on-one legal assistance, nor is it policy change that affects the broader population. It is simply institutional change to make our partnership stronger and provide better service to the families who need us.