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

Yesterday was an important day: We gathered our summer law clerks and staff, drove through the desert, and launched our first MHAS legal clinic in the Antelope Valley city of Lancaster. The clinic was held at the Lancaster Office of Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, our valued partner in our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP).

Why Lancaster? Because, at the outer reaches of Los Angeles County, Lancaster is home to isolated communities who have historically experienced discrimination. It is located far from the many service providers in and around the City of Los Angeles, including legal service providers. For this reason, Lancaster residents have very little access to justice. This means that caregivers lose income supports, children lose education, individuals lose health care, and families lose their homes without the benefit of an advocate.

We knew that there was great need for legal assistance in Lancaster because we have already been providing services  to children and families there, through BeHeLP. The time was ripe to expand our reach and bring more staff and volunteers to provide assistance in person. At yesterday’s clinic, we were able to provide counseling and referrals on issues of special education, public benefits, and more.

We look forward to further clinics in Lancaster and collaborations with Hathaway-Sycamores.