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

Well, it’s been approximately one year since I started my work at MHAS as a Greenberg Traurig-sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellow, building our Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP) from the ground up. In that time, we have accomplished much by working directly with low-income caregivers and children with mental health needs. Yet we also want to plant the seeds necessary to create long-term change on an institutional level – change that will benefit as many families as possible.

And that means training. Providing a training to staff doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic as representing an individual client in need. But the impact of training can be enormous. Mental health professionals who have a basic understanding of legal systems and available resources are much better prepared to point families in the right direction and respond quickly in a crisis. And of course, preventative and efficient intervention is what medical-legal partnershipis all about.

At this point, we have already offered a number of trainings to staff at Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, our mental health partner. But up until now, we have only offered trainings to the staff members who work with the families we serve directly. That is, we’ve only offered trainings within the two BeHeLP programs at Hathaway-Sycamores: the Wraparound Program and the Family Resource Center in Highland Park.

At the one-year mark, it’s time to expand the scope of BeHeLP. This summer alone, in addition to our usual trainings, we will provide trainings to staff who work with transition-age youth, a particularly vulnerable population; to eligibility workers who help families in all programs secure health coverage; and to program directors who can spread their knowledge to staff throughout LA County. Our trainings will address topics ranging from fair housing to immigration to public benefits.

It’s going to be a busy summer.