Matthew Halverson

The Project

Matthew (Matt) Halverson advocates on behalf of individuals facing the criminal justice system in San Diego County to ensure that their health needs are addressed through direct representation, education, and systems-level advocacy.

In 2018, about 200,000 Californians were incarcerated and 400,000 were under community supervision, with an estimated 36,000 Californians released from custody annually. Moreover, over a million Californians are admitted to and released from jails per year. When incarcerated, these individuals are either suspended or terminated from their Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”) benefits and are not automatically reinstated into their healthcare benefits. Furthermore, these individuals face many health issues while incarcerated. Individuals released from prison face multiple challenges to maintain healthcare and experience prevalent issues, including the coordination of health and behavioral services in the community, transitions between programs and services (probation/parole, county behavioral health and health services agencies, and others), gaps in eligibility when transitioning between programs, and administrative barriers to entering and/or reinstating healthcare benefits (application processing, eligibility, timeline requirements, and other administrative burdens).

Fellowship Plans

To address these issues, Matt will provide direct representation for health access issues and collaborate with other organizations such as the Public Defender’s Office to set up referral processes, develop training and guidance, and create educational materials that address the specific healthcare access issues these individuals face. Matt will also educate the community by developing self-help materials and workshops.

Prior to law school, I worked in healthcare and social services witnessing the gross disparities in healthcare and social services and how that lack of access harmed members of my local community. Everyone deserves access to healthcare and mental health services.

Matt Halverson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

The Transition Outreach Project (TOP) will serve the San Diego homeless population that are transitioning back into society. Major barriers to this transition are damaged credit, constant harassment from creditors, and debts that bar them from getting housing, keeping a steady job, and keeping a bank account. TOP will coordinate with local homeless organizations with transitioning services to provide education, counseling, litigation, negotiation, and bankruptcy, if needed.

The Inspiration

The Project

As an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, I will help veterans who suffer from service-related trauma and are accused of crimes access the Veterans Treatment Court, a program that provides housing to homeless veterans, and treats mental illness and substance abuse so that they are rehabilitated instead of merely punished. I educate other attorneys, prosecutors, judges, law students, and the community on sentencing issues for veterans, the goals of the Veterans Treatment Court, the repercussions of military-related trauma, and the benefits of treatment over incarceration so that attorneys and the court system can better serve these deserving individuals.

The Inspiration

The Project

Pioneer disability access “best practices” at the neglected intersection of health, benefits and legal aid systems to improve health outcomes for low-income people with disabilities in Alameda County.

Millions of low-income people with disabilities obtain critical health care, cash, and housing benefits through government programs. They also turn to legal aid programs for access to justice. Within these systems, skilled health care providers, benefits specialists, and legal aid lawyers work diligently to serve clients with disabilities who often come to them in crisis. But health care, benefits and legal services systems are often “siloed,” offering compartmentalized services that may not fully address client needs. This Project starts with a holistic disability rights focus that cuts across systems.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Sydney has:

  • Developed an advocacy guide to assist legal providers in understanding disability rights obligations within a federally funded, locally implemented homeless assistance program
  • Collaborated with legal advocates and state partners to improve disability rights law compliance in public benefits programs
  • Assisted in the development of a curricular guide to increase disability competency in the field of social work education
  • Composed educational materials for health providers on the nuances of disability language in public benefit applications
  • Created a “Medication Access Proposal” for cooling and storage of medications needed by homeless individuals

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Sydney plans to:

  • Continue on at DREDF as a staff attorney working on systemic advocacy in key areas of housing and emergency planning
  • Advance my advocacy skills within disability and civil rights
  • Support community building and affordable, inclusive housing efforts

Media

Emergencies and Disabilities – Pushing Limits – August 27, 2021