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Photo of Emily Neely

Emily Neely

  • Hosted by Legal Aid of West Virginia
  • Sponsored by Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts
  • Service location Martinsburg, West Virginia
  • Law school West Virginia University College of Law
  • Issue area Opioid Epidemic
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Emily (she/her/hers) provides mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution in West Virginia to low-income families impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Due to the impact of the opioid epidemic, many low-income children have been placed with their grandparents while their biological parents are in the recovery process. When disputes over these children arise between the parents and grandparents, the only option for low-income families is to go to court because they cannot afford alternative services to resolve the matter. Such court proceedings can be adversarial, confusing, and highly stressful for all parties involved, and the results can be traumatic for the children affected.

By offering free mediation to opioid-impacted families, Emily’s project helps families work together to create a personalized and practical plan for reunification and permanency, thereby reducing trauma to the children and supporting individuals in recovery.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Emily:

  • Developed an intake system and drafted required documents that allow Legal Aid of West Virginia to aid mediating parties
  • Developed relationships with service providers and courts to create a case referral system
  • Created informational handouts and distributed them to community partners, to individuals in recovery, and at networking events
  • Completed three successful mediations for opioid-impacted families
  • Conducted outreach and met with a number of groups to build collaborations, including the Berkeley County Day Report Center, the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center, the Mountaineer Recovery Center, Jefferson County Community Ministries, ChildLaw, Healthy Grandfamilies, Hampshire County Pathways, and Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment
  • Secured court-recognized mediator certification, which opens additional avenues for referrals through the court system

Next Steps

In the next year, Emily plans to:

  • Continue to expand outreach and bolster relationships with service providers and community partners
  • Develop relationships with court systems in the area to expand the reach of service
  • Continue to conduct more mediations for opioid-impacted families
  • Continue to collect data to inform future service development

Media

Event to celebrate 20 years of growth for Legal Aid of West Virginia

Emily Neely Is Using a Fellowship From Equal Justice Works To Help Low-income West Virginia Families That Are in Recovery Navigate Their Legal Issues

Helping Families Affected by Opioids

Growing up in West Virginia, I watched families fall apart due to opioid-related issues. I always believed those relationships could be rebuilt, and I wanted my legal career to provide opportunities for reunification.

Emily Neely /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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