Ian Gustafson

The Project

Ian’s (he/him/his) Fellowship will clear criminal records, restore driving privileges, and reinstate voting rights for formerly incarcerated people in southern Mississippi.

Most people leaving prison find their ability to work, drive, access quality housing, and participate in our democracy severely hindered. These collateral consequences burden formerly incarcerated people long after their prison sentences end. In Mississippi, nearly 10% of adults have had their voting rights permanently stripped after a felony conviction; thousands more are blocked from meaningful employment and even from driving by their criminal records. It is no wonder that many formerly incarcerated people report feeling shut out of society.

In Mississippi, a state short on legal service providers, people need advocates dedicated to easing the collateral consequences of their convictions and helping them participate more fully in society.

Fellowship Plans

During the Fellowship, Ian will represent formerly incarcerated individuals who seek to expunge their criminal records, restore their driver’s licenses, and petition for their voting rights back. He will hold intake clinics at public housing properties throughout southern Mississippi and take client referrals from local non-profits that serve re-entering people. Finally, Ian will develop a toolkit for pro se litigants who seek to remedy their collateral consequences.

“How can we justify placing barriers to employment and civic participation for formerly incarcerated individuals while simultaneously demanding their seamless return to society?”

Ian Gustafson /
2022 EQUAL JUSTICE WORKS FELLOW

The Project

Joshua provides systemic legal advocacy, outreach, and policy change surrounding insurance coverage to low-income children and their families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital through a medical-legal partnership.

As families lose coverage, they are less inclined to seek medical attention, miss or ration medication, incur insurmountable medical debt, and face challenges with employment. Health care coverage is arguably the most important social determinant of health. Health policy and research have enlightened advocates and health care professionals on the spiraling effect a lapse in coverage causes to low-income families. Although new state requirements were projected to impact a small number of Medicaid recipients, figures are suggesting large numbers of recipients are negatively affected. Reports indicate that recent changes in the State’s health care requirements have impacted over 18,000 Arkansas residents.

Joshua was first introduced to medical-legal partnerships as a second-year law student at Cecil. C. Humphreys School of law. There, he had the opportunity to help children and their families at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where he fell in love with this work.

Fellowship Plans

Joshua’s project will offer assistance for children and families who are facing barriers, either obtaining coverage or having certain procedures and equipment covered by insurance. The project includes providing direct representation for patients and their families as well as legal clinics aimed at addressing the sub-issues with medical coverage. The project also includes a state-wide advocacy component aimed at creating a collaborative voice among health care stakeholders and Medicare recipients in Arkansas.

As legally trained advocates, I believe we have an even bigger obligation to care and get out and do something about it.

Joshua Lester /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Krista provided legal advocacy and outreach to low-income disabled children and their families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) Hematology-Oncology clinic through a medical-legal partnership (MLP).

MLP is a critical component of family-centered care. Since legal detriments of health are among the most serious and solvable social barriers to patient health and well-being, and because it is unrealistic to supply an affordable lawyer for every patient, MLPs promote legal problem solving for the most vulnerable patients, including low-income children and their families, as a component of health care. The ACH Hematology-Oncology clinic is the primary clinic in Arkansas treating blood disorders and the only clinic in the state treating childhood cancer. With a continuing stream of patients, it is impossible for medical providers to identify and address every unmet legal need without a targeted screening system in place. Addressing these needs is significant to improving health.

Fellowship Highlights

  • Provided legal assistance to more than 250 low-to-moderate income patients and families coping with chronic and terminal illness at Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Trained social workers and medical staff on legal issues affecting patients and families, including SSI and other income supports, special education, guardianships, powers of attorney and employment rights
  • Developed an MLP self-help advocacy app with support from Walmart and Akin Gump
  • Organized two wills clinics for families at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, in which Walmart and Akin Gump attorneys participated on a pro bono basis
  • Launched a six-month pilot MLP at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to address and study the unmet legal needs of patients with sickle cell disease who recently transitioned from a pediatric care setting

What’s Next

Following her Fellowship, Krista became a staff attorney/MLP Coordinator at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Augusta, Maine, where she founded and managed the Veterans Medical-Legal Partnership with VA Maine Healthcare System. She practiced veterans law, including discharge upgrades for veterans with PTSD or mental health conditions. She also coordinated Pine Tree’s veterans pro bono projects, including Military Mondays, a monthly legal clinic in partnership with Starbucks and the Maine State Bar Association, where she served as Co-Chair of the Veterans Law Section.

Krista now works as a Fellowships portfolio manager at Equal Justice Works, where she oversees Fellows and Fellowship sponsors on the East Coast.

Media

Sometimes Legal Aid Isn’t Enough: A Case for MLPs

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.