2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Mary Claire Hyatt

Mary Claire Hyatt

Name of Host Organization: Legal Aid of Arkansas
City, State: Little Rock, Arkansas
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Walmart; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP

The Project

Mary Claire will provide education, advocacy, and referrals to patients with unmet special education needs and facilitate special education training for healthcare providers in order to increase screening, provider advocacy, and Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) referrals.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
In the 2012-2013 school year, there were nearly 80,000 students in Arkansas with special education needs. Those students represent almost 15% of the Arkansas public school system. There are many state and federal laws that create rights, enforcement procedures, and responsibilities of educational institutions. Low-income special education students are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment or illegal treatment because of the lack of education about their legal rights and remedies and access to legal services. Despite the prevalence of legal needs, medical providers face a number of barriers to screening and referral. Providers are not accustomed to asking social and economic questions outside of the presenting medical problem and experience time pressures that limit their ability to screen. Healthcare providers need to be educated to look for and address legal needs of their patients.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Mary Claire is the right person for the project because:
• She worked in multiple areas of juvenile law before and during law school, and has experience working closely with children and their families
• While in school, she worked with students and pro bono attorneys to organize public interest events and education opportunities
• Her varied experience and education allows her to work effectively as a team member of the medical-legal partnership, and to ensure equal access to the legal system for patients with unmet special education legal needs
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Mary Claire will:
• Form a special education-focused subcommittee of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Medical-Legal Partnership, comprised of pro bono attorneys, healthcare partners, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital educational specialists
• Develop and test a patient screener and referral pathway to identify the patients with unaddressed special education needs
• Develop, test, and evaluate a special education specific education module for healthcare providers

© 2017 Equal Justice Works - 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036-4511