eNewsletter - August 2017

 
  
     LAF eNewsletter
August 2017     
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
In This Newsletter
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Alice Setrini talks Racial Justice
 
Alice Setrini, Medical-Legal Partnership Project Supervisory Attorney and Civil Rights Task Force Member
 
In the wake of Ferguson and Flint, many people struggled with how to respond to systemic racial issues in our society.  At LAF, however, the Civil Rights task force had already begun those conversations. LAF has several task forces which bring together attorneys, paralegals, and other staff from across the organization to ensure that the work of LAF touches on issues wider than that of each practice group, and that discussions of issues that affect our clients are ongoing in all areas of our work. 
 
The Civil Rights task force focuses on many issues, including racial justice. “You can look at all our work as race equity work,” Alice Setrini explained.  “All poverty law is racial justice work.” Alice was a member of the second cohort of the Racial Justice Training Institute through the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. There, she learned from her peers about using civil legal aid to combat racism, and looking at poverty law through a lens of racial justice. From those trainings, she and the task force developed initiatives at LAF to train the rest of the staff on racial justice issues.
 
They worked to build a safe space group that looks internally at LAF and our organization culture, to build a space where people can be comfortable asking difficult questions, really connecting with people from different backgrounds, and grappling with their own internalized racism.  These issues come up all the time in the work of legal aid, and it’s important to Alice to know that the place she works is trying to combat racism. “It’s not enough to be just race-neutral. We have to be actively engaging with the struggle.”  They also developed a series of trainings for LAF’s staff, from attorneys and paralegals to computer specialists and accountants, on implicit bias and structural racism. They worked to educate everyone on staff about how their day-to-day work aligns with the organization’s mission and goals, and how that mission fits into a wider social context. The next training Alice and the task force hope to create will help LAF’s staff think critically about LAF’s intake and case acceptance process, how we interact with clients, and taking accountability for what we represent to the community.  Alice hopes it opens people up to the work they’re doing from a different perspective. 
 
The Civil Rights Task Force doesn’t want all of their efforts to be internal, however, so they’ve also begun a recurring series on LAF’s blog, about systemic racism and its impact.  You can read their The Elephant in the Room series here. 
 
Alice’s work with medical-legal partnerships, which you can see more about at right in this eNewsletter, is another tool in her arsenal to help her approach this work, and allows her to engage with the systems that keep people in poverty. “The way poverty has been so racialized in this country, it all becomes racial justice issue,” she explained. “I wish people would challenge that and think about the messages they hear and sometimes repeat.”
 

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A message
from LAF's
Interim Executive Director
Kate Shank
 
Last week, we shared a story on our social media about an LAF client named Mary Ann, and we explained that a good case at LAF leaves our client better off than they were before, but a great case leaves the whole community improved.
 
This month’s eNewsletter highlights many of those same sorts of high-impact efforts at LAF: Alice Setrini works with doctors and nurses to provide better health and legal advice than either could do separately, and also spends her time in the office advising the civil rights task force on racial justice issues. The EdLaw team's advocacy for educational rights impacts the whole public school system on behalf of children. Suzanne Courtheoux and the ombudsman team represent residents of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities. And Gary Wachtel, a proud member of the LAF Governing Board, is a great example to his team at Discover about the impact volunteering can have on their company, their city, and their profession. 
 
As always, on behalf of LAF and all our clients, thank you for your continued support of our work. Your investment in LAF ensures that LAF can continue to have a positive impact in our clients' lives and communities.
 
Best,
 
 
Katherine W. Shank
LAF Director of Volunteer Services
and Interim Executive Director
 
 
Ombudsmen Serve as Nursing Home Residents' Best Allies 
Learn about the vital role LAF's ombudsmen
play in ensuring justice for all
 
Ralph and Suzanne
 
When Ralph came home from the hospital after a scheduled surgery, he was shocked to find he was being evicted from his nursing home. That nursing home was his home, and he had nowhere else to go if they kicked him out. With help from LAF’s ombudsman team who successfully argued that his “involuntary discharge” violated Medicaid regulations, he received a large settlement from the facility and was able to find another place to call home.
 
Since nursing homes represent one of the most heavily regulated industries, the job of ombudsmen often comes down to simply educating nursing home staff. For example, a nursing home might listen to the agent under Power of Attorney rather than the resident. “Just because you’re in a long-term care facility doesn’t mean you’ve lost the right to make your own decisions,” says Suzanne Courtheoux, Regional Ombudsman for Lake County and Supervisory Attorney at LAF. “We have to come in and make sure they understand that the resident still gets to make that decision.”
 
 
 
Educational Advocacy, School Closings, Volunteers, and Organization-wide Efforts 
In-depth reports on LAF's work
to protect education rights
 
Every child has a right to an education, and LAF's EdLaw team spend their careers protecting those rights, like we did for Isaiah earlier this year. They work closely with the rest of the LAF staff and with a tight team of dedicated volunteers, and their efforts have recently gained some visibility online.
 
Kate Gladson, a staff attorney in LAF's Children and Families Practice Group recently wrote a detailed report on the multi-faceted work LAF has done in education advocacy and to protect the rights of students whose neighborhood schools are closing around them. After the 2013 school closings, Chicago Public Schools publicly promised a five-year moratorium on further school closings. That moratorium will likely end with the start of the 2017–2018 school year. Given the current budgetary problems that the Chicago Public Schools and other urban districts across the country are facing, students and families will likely be confronted with school-closing problems in the near future. School closings pose a complicated set of challenges, and attorneys organization-wide at LAF have chosen to take on those challenges by getting involved at every step. You can read about Kate's work and LAF's efforts in her piece here.
 
And on the LAF blog, VISTA Attorney Calli Burnett talks about improvements made to the Education Law Pro Bono Project to get more volunteers involved and help even more clients. 
The small but mighty team of volunteer attorneys are from private firms and solo practices throughout the city, and the cases they take on at the clinic range from discipline and expulsion to residency challenges, bullying, special education services, and even Title IX claims stemming from sexual assaults. “They come from all different types of practices but they all have this innate commitment to education or have personal experience dealing with education issues themselves,” Calli says. Read more about the Project’s new clinical model and its pro bono attorneys here.
 
 
LAF and Hospitals BUILD Health Justice 
A Snapshot of how Medical-Legal
Partnerships are making an impact
 
Two years ago, LAF received a sizeable grant from the BUILD Health Challenge, a national program designed to support community collaborations that are working to give everyone a fair chance to be healthy. BUILD's model stands for Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, and Data-driven, and LAF's medical-legal partnerships reflect that vision.  
 
 
If you've ever wondered about the details of how a medical-legal partnership works or the data behind them, check out Practical Playbook's report here.  It shows great data about how medical-legal partnerships can have a major impact on health outcomes, including:
  • People with chronic illnesses are admitted to the hospital less frequently
  • People more commonly take their medications as prescribed
  • People report less stress
  • Less money is spent on health care services for the people who would otherwise frequently go to the hospital
  • Clinical services are more frequently reimbursed by public and private payers
The playbook's report also has a series of videos (one featuring LAF's own Alice Setrini), and updates on victories LAF and our partnershave celebrated.  Check it out!
 
 
Pro Bono Award for Discover 
LAF Board Member and Volunteer Gary Wachtel received the Chicago Bar Foundation's Exelon Award for his Dedicated Service 
 
 
Gary Wachtel receiving his award from 
Susan L. Lees of Allstate Insurance Company
 
Under Gary Wachtel's guidance, nearly every member of Discover Financial's legal department is involved in pro bono and volunteer work, totaling more than 1,500 hours donated to the community. For his efforts, the LAF Board member was awarded the Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award from the The Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation earlier this summer. Gary's team's dedication to pro bono has helped LAF establish and maintain a presence at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse to help victims and survivors of domestic violence navigate the legal system and ensure their protection. You can read more about Gary's work here
 
Congratulations and thank you, Gary!
 
 
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LAF
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.

For more than 50 years, LAF has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community, ensuring they have the same access to legal services as those who can afford it.  By resolving critical legal problems that systemically trap people in poverty, such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, and unfair evictions, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives back on track and given them hope for a brighter future.  
We rely on the generosity of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
 
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