2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Headhsot of Courtney Bergan

Courtney Bergan

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Maryland
  • Sponsored by Anonymous
  • Service location Baltimore, Maryland
  • Law school University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
  • Issue area Disability Rights, Health Care
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Courtney (they/them/theirs) will work with Disability Rights Maryland to combat the unjust segregation of people with psychiatric disabilities by using legal advocacy, outreach, and state legislative advocacy to expand access to community mental health support and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations.

Maryland is amid a devastating mental health crisis fueled by a dearth of affordable and culturally responsive community-based support. According to Mental Health America, Maryland ranks third worst state for unmet mental health needs, with over 30% of people reporting that they were unable to access mental healthcare when they sought it out. Black and Brown Medicaid beneficiaries are most impacted by these barriers to care, which contribute to unnecessary hospitalizations, and too often trigger a tragic spiral of job loss, homelessness, social isolation, and worsening mental health. A comprehensive advocacy strategy is required to ensure Marylanders can access the support needed to avoid unnecessary institutionalization.

Courtney’s Fellowship was inspired by their own experiences with unnecessary institutionalization that directly resulted from their inability to access appropriate and affordable community resources. Courtney hopes to ensure all disabled Marylanders can access the support they need to remain in their community and achieve their dreams.

Fellowship Plans

Courtney will use trauma-informed lawyering to help individual clients challenge service denials barring access to community mental health support. Courtney will also create resources to provide impacted individuals with information on their rights to community inclusion. In addition, Courtney will engage in systemic advocacy by using legislative advocacy to expand community-based alternatives to hospitalization and evaluating whether systemic litigation may be needed to guarantee the right to community integration.

As someone who’s experienced unnecessary institutionalization due to an inability to access community support, I was fortunate to have lawyers to help me gain access to the support and resources I needed to thrive. I hope to use my Equal Justice Works Fellowship to pay that advocacy forward to others in my community.

Courtney Bergan /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation

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Kaitlyn Hartmann

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Sponsor: KPMG LLP, The Sidley Austin Foundation

Amanda Glass

Host: Arizona Center For Disability Law

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP