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Caroline Shurig

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Caroline Shurig

Caroline Shurig

Name of Host Organization: LAF
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Health Care, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Pfizer, Inc.

The Project

Caroline will protect the rights of children with unmet mental health needs through direct representation and community education in education law, public benefits, and medical benefits cases. She will use these cases to identify systematic barriers to the mental health services guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Children with mental health needs are not receiving proper educational accommodations, medical treatment, or legal representation in benefits, special education, and discipline proceedings. Instead, they are being systematically pushed out of schools and into prison. 35% of students with an Emotional Disturbance (ED) graduate high school—compared to the overall average of 76%. 73% of all ED students who drop out of school are arrested within five years. 85% of children in juvenile detention facilities have qualifying disabilities, but just 37% received any kind of services in their mainstream school. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), implemented in 2014, is intended to increase access to health care. It calls for more robust mental health services and requires all health plans to offer coverage for mental health services at the same rate as other traditional medical services. It is unclear how the ACA’s improvements to children’s mental health services will actually be implemented. However, it is crucial in these early stages that Medicaid advocates pay close attention and guide the process to achieve the best results for children living in poverty.
The Right Person For This Project
Caroline is the right person for the project because:
• Prior to attending law school she worked as a crisis advocate for individuals in medical emergency rooms
• She has worked extensively with homeless individuals experiencing mental illness by helping them to file public benefits claims and appeals
• During law school, she has been working with youth with mental health needs as an education law intern at LAF
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Caroline will:
• Develop an intake process for potential clients and begin accepting cases for direct representation
• Represent children in expulsion, special education, and benefits hearings
• Conduct “Know Your Educational and Medical Rights” presentations for community members and stakeholders
• Establish dialogue with partners to identify potential issues for impact advocacy