2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Eliza Schafler

Eliza Schafler

Name of Host Organization: Mental Health Advocacy Services
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Health Care/Medical-Legal Partnership
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

The Project

Eliza is establishing a medical-legal partnership focused on children's mental health in Los Angeles, offering holistic legal services to families to improve children's mental health treatment outcomes.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
For children with mental health needs, family stability is critical to treatment success. Yet many low-income families in Los Angeles face threats to stability that are beyond the traditional scope of mental health care. Traumatic and stressful circumstances, such as eviction and insufficient income, have dire consequences for children’s mental health, but clinicians are often powerless to help. This project creates a partnership between Mental Health Advocacy Services, a legal services provider, and Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, one of the largest children’s behavioral health providers in Los Angeles. It offers legal services as a critical tool to serve low-income families and improve children’s mental health.
Highlights to Date: 
In the first year, Eliza has:
• Developed the nation’s first medical-legal partnership (MLP) focused on outpatient mental health for children and families
• Provided legal services to over 80 families of at-risk children
• Expanded MLP to at-risk youth in “wraparound” treatment
• Trained over 350 mental health professionals on legal topics
• Founded a national Behavioral Health MLP Network with 40+ members
• Designed and implemented an outcome measurement system that has identified reduced parental stress following the receipt of legal services
• Presented at statewide and nationwide conferences
• Helped change the delivery of mental health care by the project partner to better serve families
What's Next: 
In the next year, Eliza plans to:
• Continue to provide legal assistance to children and families
• Continue to provide educational workshops on legal topics to mental health professionals at Hathaway-Sycamores
• Offer bilingual community education presentations to low-income families in the communities served by the MLP
• Create opportunities for volunteer participation in the MLP
• Collaborate with other community organizations to better support MLP clients and promote the MLP model

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