Maya (she/her/hers) will establish a farmworker Medical-Legal Partnership hosted by the Central West Justice Center and in partnership with the Connecticut River Valley Farmworker Health Program to provide holistic care and advocacy in housing, benefits, and employment matters to farmworkers in Massachusetts.
Thousands of farmworkers in Western Massachusetts work for long hours and low pay to put food on our tables. In addition to extremely hazardous labor, farmworkers are twice as likely to live in severe poverty, face housing instability, poor living conditions, and food insecurity. Some farmworkers are also isolated and difficult to reach through traditional legal aid models. Maya’s project will develop and implement a Medical-Legal Partnership to address farmworkers’ unmet legal needs and work with medical clinic staff to improve the health and wellbeing of farmworkers and their families.
Maya is passionate about improving access to critical services for farmworkers in her community and aims to use her legal education to fight for the health justice and legal rights of this underserved population.
During her Fellowship, Maya will represent farmworker clients with their housing, benefits, and employment needs. She will be on-site in the farmworker medical clinic to provide advice and consultation to farmworkers. Maya will also engage with farmworkers and other organizations to conduct outreach and training on the rights and resources available to farmworkers. Finally, Maya will engage in policy advocacy on issues impacting farmworker health at the state and national levels.
Farmworkers are one of the most essential and underserved populations in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Springfield, I am proud to develop a model of holistic services to improve the health and well-being of farmworkers living in my community.
Maya McCann /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Kristen will promote economic justice for survivors of domestic violence and other vulnerable populations through direct representation and community trainings on debt collection.
Nearly every victim of domestic violence suffers from some form of financial abuse. The rise of easily accessible credit cards has rapidly increased financial abuse through consumer credit, also known as coerced debt. By knowing the victim’s personal information, an abuser can destroy a victim’s credit score by opening unauthorized credit cards in the victim’s name and then hiding the bills. Damaged credit scores impede a victim’s ability to access necessary resources for leaving an abusive relationship such as obtaining housing, a vehicle, and even employment.
Kristen’s experience as a teacher and organizer ground her commitment to advocating for economic justice for survivors of domestic violence and their families.
During her Fellowship, Kristen will represent consumers in small claims court and develop a coerced debt defense. She will train volunteer attorneys and domestic violence advocates to help victims identify and address financial abuse. Through representation in debt collection proceedings, challenges to credit reporting issues, and community programming, this project will ensure that victims are not unjustly separated from the economic resources necessary to secure their independence.
I am honored to join the work of GBLS in helping survivors of domestic violence regain financial stability.
Kristen Bor-Zale /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Matt helped low-income people fight debt collection abuses, and works towards a fresh start for all consumers.
Debt collectors are some of the heaviest users of state court systems nationwide. In Massachusetts, they file over half of all civil cases. Despite this, very few lawyers are working with consumers to fight for their rights against industry players who do not comply with the law. It is a common misconception that there are no defenses that consumers can raise in debt collection cases; but Matt worked with his clients to raise meritorious defenses and counterclaims that can often save consumers thousands of dollars.
In the past two years, Matt has:
- Provided representation to over 400 individuals in debt collection actions.
- Given presentations to numerous community groups on consumer’s fair debt collection rights.
- Successfully advocated as a part of a coalition for changes to court rules for debt collection cases that are favorable to consumers.
- Helped to form a statewide coalition of consumer advocates dedicated to reaching 100% access to justice for people with consumer debt issues.
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Matt plans to:
- Continue representing consumers in debt collection lawyer for the day programs.
- Serve as the Project manager for pilot programs focusing on assuring 100% access to justice for low-income consumers in Massachusetts.
- Work as an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services representing consumers in fair debt collection, auto fraud, student loans, bankruptcy, and other consumer matters.
Deborah combats pervasive barriers to mental health care by providing direct legal services, community outreach, and advocacy for low-income residents of Massachusetts.
Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents every year are inequitably denied or limited access to mental health services. More than half of individuals with mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders face significant barriers to obtaining care, such as enrolling in comprehensive insurance plans, finding providers, and accessing medically necessary treatment and services. The existing mental health parity laws and health care consumer protections are ineffective and insufficient to meet the needs of this vulnerable population. Furthermore, these laws and regulations are inaccessible, especially for people with mental disabilities, without adequate legal representation.
In the past year, Deborah has:
- Advised or represented over 100 low-income residents of Massachusetts with mental health conditions facing denials of medically necessary services, barriers to comprehensive health insurance coverage, and unaffordable medical debt;
- Secured approximately $300,000 in health care services received or medical debt eliminated; and
- Collaborated with 24 advocacy organizations and local providers of mental health services to identify violations of mental health parity and advocacy opportunities to improve access to mental health care.
In the next year, Deborah plans to:
- Continue representing low-income residents of Massachusetts resolve barriers to mental health care;
- Increase advocacy efforts to strengthen mental health parity laws and regulations; and
- Work with pro bono attorneys to assist and represent additional clients.