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


Sometimes, a great deal of legal resources and time are required to help a client get the help that she needs. Other times, the mere presence of an attorney on the case is enough to get things done. This is perhaps the most efficient use of legal intervention.

This week at our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP), we had such an instance: when one small step by an attorney made a huge difference for a vulnerable child.

The clinical team came to me because a child who had been the victim of a crime needed to move to another school, where he would be safe from the perpetrators. Inexplicably, the school district had refused to move him to a safe environment, despite pleas from the family and case managers. As a result, the child had stopped going to school entirely, completely losing access to many weeks’ worth of education.

My colleagues and I prepared for the fight that it would take to restore this child to a safe and supportive educational environment. But the fight ended before it began. As soon as the district was informed of its legal obligations, the resistance disappeared.

It’s disconcerting to realize that an attorney can achieve in a moment what a concerned family and clinical team cannot after weeks of effort. My small comfort is that, in this case, we were there to help.