Amanda Walsh

  • Hosted by Legal Council for Health Justice
  • Sponsored by Baker McKenzie, Walgreen Company
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Issue area Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Amanda established the first medical-legal partnership in Illinois to partner with child and adolescent behavioral health providers, allowing her to advocate for improved health outcomes and family stability for children and families with behavioral health needs through direct representation, training, and policy advocacy. 

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 provided preventative legal care through direct representation, community outreach, technical assistance, and policy advocacy to prevent these tragic outcomes and improve the overall health and wellbeing of these children.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Amanda has

  • Partnered with Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Under the Rainbow clinic to provide free legal services to their clients, establishing the first pediatric behavioral health medical-legal partnership in Illinois
  • Worked with 118 clients on 196 legal cases to address a broad range of health-harming legal needs, such as special education, school discipline, SSI, immigration, and emergency planning for families in fear of deportation
  • Collaborated with community stakeholders and coalitions to pursue systemic change through administrative and legislative advocacy, including broad efforts to reform Illinois’ behavioral health system.

What’s Next?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Amanda plans to:

  • Work as a staff attorney with her host organization, Legal Council for Health Justice.
  • Continue in her role as the project lead for the medical-legal partnership program developed with Mt. Sinai’s Under the Rainbow program through her Equal Justice Works fellowship.
  • Work to expand the program at Under the Rainbow to serve more clients and address additional health-harming legal needs with the hopes of expanding the program to Mt. Sinai’s behavioral health program as a whole, serving children and adults.

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