by Eliza Schafler
Eliza Schafler is an MHAS Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
It was an eventful October.
First, there was the MHAS Annual Celebration. This was a time for us to honor contributions to the mental health community made by District Attorney Jackie Lacey, author Ido Kedar, and our own board members and staff. It was also a time for us to listen to the voices of our clients, who shared their stories of challenges and triumphs in person and through video. And finally, it was a time for us to gather as a community, in support of the issues that matter to us and to everyone who values mental health and wellness.
Then, there was the week-long Equal Justice Works Leadership Development Training and Career Fair in Washington, D.C. As an Equal Justice Works fellow, I connected with the generous sponsor of our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP), Greenberg Traurig LLP. I also learned from talented speakers such as Karen Lash, Senior Counsel for the Access to Justice Initiative at the US Department of Justice; Bryan Stevenson, acclaimed Eighth Amendment and civil rights lawyer; and Ellen Lawton, Lead Research Scientist at the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. At the Career Fair, I represented MHAS and joined legal assistance agencies and law students from around the country.
Finally, the end of October marks an important 1-year mark for BeHeLP. It has been one year since BeHeLP began its direct services to clients – providing holistic legal assistance to children with mental health needs and their family members, in order to prevent triggers and promote wellness. Since we began, we’ve helped clients in so many ways: through representation in housing, traffic, and probate court, special education negotiations, and benefits hearings; through drafting of letters and legal documents; through free legal advice on issues that matter to our clients; and through quality referrals, with follow-through to ensure our clients don’t fall through the cracks.
In many ways, October was a time of reflection.Time to look ahead to a productive November.