Liz Harris

The Project

Liz works with veterans to resolve legal issues such as family law, housing, and VA benefits issues.

As a Fellow, Liz will:

  • Provide legal representation to veterans
  • Run legal clinics
  • Develop a medical-legal partnership
  • Participate in community engagement

The Inspiration

“Our veterans and their families deserve much support, and this fellowship allows me to contribute,” Liz says.

The Inspiration

The Project

Mary Claire provided education, advocacy, and referrals to patients with unmet special education needs and facilitated special education training for healthcare providers in order to increase screening, provider advocacy, and Medical-Legal Partnership referrals.

In the 2012-2013 school year, there were nearly 80,000 students in Arkansas with special education needs. Those students represent almost 15% of the Arkansas public school system. There are many state and federal laws that create rights, enforcement procedures, and responsibilities of educational institutions. Low-income special education students are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment or illegal treatment because of the lack of education about their legal rights and remedies and access to legal services. Despite the prevalence of legal needs, medical providers face a number of barriers to screening and referral. Providers are not accustomed to asking social and economic questions outside of the presenting medical problem and experience time pressures that limit their ability to screen. Healthcare providers need to be educated to look for and address legal needs of their patients.

Mary Claire was the right person for the project because:

  • She worked in multiple areas of juvenile law before and during law school, and has experience working closely with children and their families
  • While in school, she worked with students and pro bono attorneys to organize public interest events and education opportunities
  • Her varied experience and education allows her to work effectively as a team member of the medical-legal partnership, and to ensure equal access to the legal system for patients with unmet special education legal needs

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship Mary Claire:

  • Formed a special education-focused subcommittee of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Medical-Legal Partnership, comprised of pro bono attorneys, healthcare partners, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital educational specialists
  • Developed and tested a patient screener and referral pathway to identify the patients with unaddressed special education needs
  • Developed, tested, and evaluated a special education specific education module for healthcare providers

The Project

Jen provided legal advocacy and outreach to children and their families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital through medical legal partnership and work to solve social/legal needs for patients who are newly injured or newly diagnosed to ease their transition back home.

Sixty percent of a person’s health is determined by social and environmental factors including housing, access to healthy food, health care, education, and income. The American Bar Association reports that low-income individuals in the U.S. generally have 2-3 unmet civil legal needs that can be harmful to health. The benefits that enable low-income families to access these necessities are often wrongfully denied or under enforced, which can directly affect health. Through Medical Legal Partnership, these social determinants of health can be addressed with a profound effect on the overall health of patients.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Jen has:

  • Worked with the NICU team to establish an inpatient screener so that each family will be screened prior to discharge for any legal needs
  • Provided extended representation to over 40 clients in the areas of education, social security, divorce, custody, adoption, and guardianship, as well as provided advice and brief services to an additional 125 individuals
  • Presented at the Psychosocial Grand Rounds and The Schwartz Rounds at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and to the healthcare team at Arkansas Children’s Northwest
  • Organized an Advanced Planning Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital with volunteers from her sponsors, which provided 14 clients with over 50 estate planning documents

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jen plans to continue her legal advocacy in the public interest sector as a staff attorney with Disability Rights Arkansas.