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

I have dropped hints in previous posts that our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP) was on the brink of a major expansion. Well, the day has finally arrived.

Until recently, BeHeLP had been implemented in just one program: the Hathaway-Sycamores Family Resource Center in Highland Park, Los Angeles. But as of this week, BeHeLP is providing legal care to youth with mental health needs and their families at a second program: the Hathaway-Sycamores Wraparound Program. This is a significant change in the scope of our partnership; Wraparound serves about 300-400 families a year. It also serves children who have been identified by certain specific risk factors, including exposure to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

The Wraparound program is special because it not only provides mental health treatment and case management to families, but it does so in a coordinated, team-based way. Every child in Wraparound gets a clinician, case manager, and team facilitator, and the child’s parent gets a “parent partner” with life experience to help navigate challenges. Now, these Wraparound teams will also gain a lawyer.

One good way to measure the viability of a project is by the reaction of its constituents. And at the official launch of BeHeLP: Wraparound on Monday, the excitement among clinicians and staff was palpable. My presentation on BeHeLP was punctuated by cheers – cheers for access to a bilingual lawyer, cheers for a speedy referral process. Most importantly, there were cheers for more legal services.