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Amanda Walsh

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Amanda Walsh

Amanda Walsh

Name of Host Organization: Legal Council for Health Justice
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Health Care/Medical-Legal Partnership
Sponsors: Walgreen Company, Baker & McKenzie

The Project

Amanda will establish the Family Preservation Project (FPP) to tackle the social determinants of health and family instability faced by children with mental illness through a medical-legal partnership model.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
One in five children experience mental illness, yet only 20% of those identified receive adequate mental health services. When these children are unable to access adequate and early treatment, they are thrown into a vicious cycle leading to negative health outcomes and other unmet legal and social needs. Moreover, 57% of these children come from households living in poverty and their rates of suspension and expulsion are three times higher than their peers. Additionally, through custody relinquishment, children can be torn from their families and placed into the foster care system as the only way to access mental health services. This project aims to provide preventative legal care through direct representation, community outreach, technical assistance, and policy advocacy to prevent these tragic outcomes and improve the overall health and well-being of these children.
The Right Person For This Project
Amanda is the right person for the project because:
• She experienced firsthand the disconnect between the mental health, healthcare, social service, and child welfare systems when she was placed into foster care due to her parents’ untreated mental illnesses
• She used her personal experience to guide her undergraduate and graduate studies in studying these systems, ultimately obtaining a MSW in mental health, a JD with certificates in child and family law and public interest law, and a LLM in health law and policy
• Her interdisciplinary training and internship experiences provide her with a thorough foundation and network to work within and between these systems, to encourage collaboration, and to successfully advocate for these children and their families.
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Amanda will:
• Work with the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership (CMLPC), a project of AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and its medical providers to establish and formalize FPP
• Develop trainings for medical partners on health-harming legal needs and rights of children with mental illness
• Begin to conduct intake at medical partner sites to identify clients
• Attend mental health coalitions to build relationships with community stakeholders.