I hope your 2022 is off to a great start. At HLA, we begin the New Year optimistic that it will be a year of progress for advancing the cause of Health Care Justice.
There are big challenges in front of us for sure, but we are ready for these tests. An important reason we are prepared is that our friends and supporters came through in such a generous way, making our year-end fundraising drive our most successful in our history! Below you will see a list of those who made contributions at the end of 2021. We are grateful to them and to all of those who supported and collaborated with us in 2021.
I hope you enjoy reading about some of HLA's recent work below.
HLA Continues Efforts to Achieve Greater
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
HLA continues our endeavor in reaching greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through aggressive learning and training, by constantly connecting with people within and outside the organization, and by adopting anti-racist protocols and systems.
One of the goals of the DEI Committee is increasing communication between HLA and a variety of organizations throughout Massachusetts. This includes an exhaustive list of different organizations and communities that we could and should be connected with in regards to social services, other advocacy groups, and community-led centers that we can partner with in the future. We look forward to connecting with more affinity groups and a multitude of new organizations this year, developing and strengthening our relationships with new and existing organizations alike.
Additional efforts include organizing staff-wide trainings with outside facilitators to help us deeply understand internalized and external oppression, how that manifests in our work with clients, and how we can navigate it moving forward. The trainings we have held for our staff in just in the past few days are:
"Understanding Racism, Part 1" with Jeff Rogers, an Executive/Organizational Coach and Facilitator from YW Boston, who engaged staff in a 2.5-hour interactive session on what racism is and isn't, the surprising ways it manifests, why it's difficult to eradicate, and what we can do to move forward. Jeff uses Radical Candor and a Solutions-centered method in helping staff navigate difficult conversations together to help HLA become more of an anti-racist organization.
"Understanding Racism in the lives of Children and Youth: Where does it happen and what do we do about it?" with Noor Toraif, who specializes in online racial discourse and draws from the Critical Race Theory to understand the experiences of youth crossing over from social services to the criminal justice system.
HLA is excited to announce we are seeking to hire a Head of Litigation to lead our pursuit of Health Care Justice in the courtroom. This person will lead our impact litigation and litigation for individual clients.
You can review the full position description and apply here.
Please help us spread the word about this exciting opportunity!!
A Major Advance in Expanding
Health Care Access for Immigrants
At the end of 2021, HLA played a key role in a major victory for improving access to health care for immigrants in low-income situations. Over a number of years, HLA represented dozens of immigrant clients with significant disabilities and other health care needs who became stranded in hospital beds, or struggled with unsafe living conditions at home, because they could not access in-home services such as those provided by independent nurses, home health aides, and personal care attendants. The reason? MassHealth did not cover these services for many immigrants. As a result, many immigrants' health suffered and hospitals had to house immigrant patients who no longer needed to be hospitalized but could not be safely discharged.
Following concerted advocacy by HLA and our allies over years, MassHealth recently took a momentous step to address this harmful coverage gap. Late in 2021, MassHealth adopted a new regulation providing coverage for critically needed in-home, and other long-term care, health services for immigrant patients with complex health care needs. We view this as a critical step forward for improving health care access for immigrants in Massachusetts.
HLA is continuing to work with other legal aid and health care advocacy organizations, hospitals, and MassHealth to ensure that those who are eligible for these critical additional benefits can receive them. Thank you to all who worked with HLA on this important issue!
HLA's MHAP for Kids to
Expand Services to Assist More Children With Mental Illness
We are pleased to let you know that HLA has again expanded our Mental Health Advocacy Program for Kids (MHAP for Kids), this time with new sites in Everett, Fitchburg, and Lawrence. We have developed new partnerships in these locations where our attorneys are embedded in the Eliot Family Resource Center (Everett), the MOC Fitchburg Family Resource Center, and Family Services of the Merrimack Valley (Lawrence). This means MHAP for Kids team now includes 12 staff attorneys based in Family Resource Centers across the Commonwealth, three Paralegals, and MHAP’s fearless leader, Senior Director Marisol Garcia. The expansion in 2021 helped us represent more than 600 families with kids with unmet mental health last year.
This expansion of MHAP for Kids comes at a time when the program is needed more than ever because of a community-wide mental health crisis significantly exacerbated by the pandemic. “'This is a crisis on top of a crisis,'” Dr. Jacob Venter, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance told the Boston Globe in 2021. “'The pandemic has really exacerbated everything, made everything a lot worse.'”
Also, last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national children's mental health crisis. In this time of extreme need, HLA's MHAP for Kids attorneys are positioned to help families across the Commonwealth access the mental health services their children need and deserve. These attorneys are keeping children in school and out of the court system. Of the more than 250 children MHAP for Kids is currently representing, approximately 58% are children of color.
Taking Steps Towards Greater Access to
Gender-Affirming Health Care
HLA attorneys frequently represent transgender consumers denied access to gender-affirming health care. Across the large number of matters we have handled for transgender clients, we have encountered numerous systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing gender-affirming health services. Our Transgender Health Project strives to combat these injustices.
One way we have sought to dismantle barriers to gender-affirming health services is by working with our fellow members of the Mass. Transgender Health Coalition to advocate for policies that expand health insurance coverage for these services. This collective advocacy work has paved the way for much-needed reforms.
HLA played a key role in a recent very positive development in transgender health care rights, when MassHealth issued policies expanding coverage for gender-affirming services for transgender members. HLA’s Andrew Cohen and Kara Hurvitz led HLA's advocacy work with our Coalition partners. MassHealth's new policy extends gender-affirming coverage by:
Updating the list of covered facial masculinization or feminization procedures;
Removing age limitations for masculinizing chest surgery;
Improving coverage for chest reconstruction surgery;
Removing vocal therapy from the list of non-covered services; and
Eliminating the need for two mental health clinician support letters.
Additionally, HLA was also very pleased to see the state's Division of Insurance take action to protect transgender consumers' access to gender-affirming health services after HLA and our Coalition partners urged such action. Recently, the Division issued a Bulletin affirming that recent state laws protecting transgender individuals strengthen the rights of transgender people in the health care system.
This is yet another example of how HLA's primary work of representing families and individuals unable to access health care leads to successful advocacy to reform our health care system.
Year-End Fundraising Drive - Thank You!
Thank You to the Following Donors for Contributing to our 2021 Year-End Drive!
Myron and Ruth Allukian
Charles Ames and Kathleen Ames
Lauren and Tony Barnes
Samuel and Carlotte Berk
Thomas Crane and Geraldine Crane
Mark and Deborah Doherty
E. Catlin Donnelly & Associates
Roland Eavey and Sheila Desmond
Alan Einhorn and Suzanne Salamon
Sen. Cindy F. Friedman
The Hon. Gail Garinger
Carroll and Wesley Gee
Linda Green and Daniel Miller
Christie Hager and Royal Stark
Martin Levin and Kelly Sprague
Renee Loth and Bert Seager
Justin and Aly Lowe
Thomas McGuire and Margarita Alegria
Alison Mitchell and Andrew Upton
Mollie Baldwin Foley Charitable Trust
John and Lucia Mudd
Julie Myers and David Keller
Marla Shatkin and Henry Margolis
Lauren Smith, M.D.
Kenneth and Gerri Sweder
The Plymouth Rock Foundation
Lindsey Tucker and Reuven Steinberg
Van der Wansem Foundation
John and Barbara Van Scoyoc
Tamara Wolfson and John Ruppert
Below are HLA clients who shared their stories with us at our
26th Annual Benefit Breakfast last year.
Bethany is a special education teacher. She and her partner, Julie, who is also a teacher, have six beautiful children. In the video above, she shares her family’s journey in ensuring the best quality of life for her son, Ben. HLA successfully advocated for Ben to receive the educational and mental health services he needs at a residential school, which he loves.
Edwin is a long-time activist and community organizer. In 2018, he was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that paralyzed him. In the video above, Edwin shares the hardships he has endured during his recovery and how HLA advocated to ensure he has access to critical medical services and equipment that improve his independence and quality of life.
We Welcome New Staff to Our Growing Team!
Elisabeth joins HLA as our MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney based in Lowell. Prior to joining HLA, Elisabeth worked at the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office where she served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Mental Health Court in Lowell as well as in the Lowell Juvenile Court. While in law school, Elisabeth was a part of the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project as well as a LEND (Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Delay) Fellow in 2018. Elisabeth received her J.D. from Boston College Law School in 2019 and her B.A. from Colby College in 2016.
Nell joined HLA in September of 2021 as a Paralegal for our MHAP for Kids. Prior to joining HLA, Nell participated in the School for International Training's International Honors Program, where she studied the public health care systems in Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina. She previously was a family law litigation assistant and a research affiliate for Military Support Programs and Networks. Nell earned her B.A. in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Abigail (or Abby) joined HLA in January 2022 as an Administrative Assistant, supporting the work of our General Legal Practice Team, MHAP for Kids, and our Administrative and Development teams. Prior to working at HLA, she held various administrative roles while teaching English as a Second Language at a language school and translation agency based in Montréal, Québec. Abby earned her B.A. in Art History and Anthropology from McGill University.
Aashna joined HLA as a Paralegal with our General Legal Practice Team in August 2021. Prior to joining HLA, Aashna worked at a multi-focus law firm as a Legal Assistant, aiding in criminal, real estate, and intellectual property cases. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with bachelors degrees in Public Health (policy and management) and Legal Studies in 2020.
Stacey joins our MHAP for Kids team as our Staff Attorney based in Brockton and serving Plymouth County. Before joining HLA, Stacey was a self-employed Family Law Attorney specializing in divorce, child support, mediation, and other family law issues for over ten years. Stacey also has experience in Guardian ad Litem and Court Investigations and worked for the Committee for Public Counsel Services/Children and Family Law Program, where she represented parents and children in cases involving Care & Protection Petitions in Plymouth and Norfolk counties. Before launching her legal career, Stacey oversaw a variety of programs in the Department of Children and Families across her ten-year tenure there. Stacey earned her J.D. from the New England School of Law.
Kathy joins HLA as our MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney based in Lawrence. Prior to joining HLA, Kathy engaged in private practice representing parents and children in Care and Protection Petitions and Children Requiring Assistance cases for the Committee for Public Counsel Services/Children and Family Law Division. In addition, she has experience as a Guardian Ad Litem and Court Investigator in the juvenile courts in Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties. Kathleen also worked as an Education Advocate for the Home for Little Wanderers Parent Support Program as well as for families working with the Department of Mental Health. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross and a law degree from Suffolk University Law School.
Zachary joined the General Legal Practice Team as a Paralegal in September of 2021. Prior to joining HLA, he interned at the African American Community Service Agency in its Policy and Advocacy department, conducting research on local policy issues affecting the Black/African-American/African Ancestry communities and developing a civic education program on local, state, and federal policymaking processes. He also interned at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, was a student member at the Bay Area JusticeCorps, worked as a part-time barista at Starbucks, and enjoyed leadership positions in student advocacy through student government organizations. Zachary recently earned B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Political Science from Santa Clara University.
Ellen joins the MHAP for Kids team as our Staff Attorney based in Worcester. Prior to joining HLA, Ellen worked as a staff Attorney at Northeast Legal Aid and Metro West Legal Services. At Northeast Legal Aid, Ellen was in charge of the Medical-Legal Partnership program and also represented grandparents and third-party caregivers of children in legal matters. At MetroWest Legal Services, Ellen represented families and children in special education matters which often were complicated by life stressors such as substantial poverty. Ellen comes with a variety of experience in special education law, child welfare law, issues pertaining to domestic violence. Ellen provides child-centered, trauma centered representation for families facing legal issues and is a compassionately zealous attorney. She is a 2007 graduate of New England Law.
Kendal joins HLA as our MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney serving Bristol County and the Cape & Islands. Kendal comes to HLA from the Bristol County District Attorney's office. She spent five years supporting prosecutors in the Fall River District Court and in the Special Victims Unit, while attending law school at night and on the weekends. Kendal then transitioned to the role of Assistant District Attorney, spending four years as a prosecutor based in the Attleboro District Court. She became the lead prosecutor for the Attleboro high risk domestic violence team, overseeing complex prosecutions of repeat offenders and working with community partners to provide support to domestic violence victims. Kendal has tried dozens of cases and brings extensive litigation experience and trauma informed advocacy skills to this role. Kendal earned her B.A. from Saint Michael's College where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her J.D. from the University of Massachusetts School of Law.
Emmanuelle joins HLA as our MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney based in Fitchburg. Prior to joining HLA, Emmanuelle worked as a Staff Attorney and Fellow with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, where she investigated and litigated against predatory for-profit colleges that target and harm students of color. Emmanuelle holds a BA in crime and justice studies, magna cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and received her law degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. During law school, she was a legal intern at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in the Consumer Protection Division; Bowmans in Johannesburg, South Africa; and the Utah County Attorney’s Office. Prior to law school, Emmanuelle interned with the Boston Branch of the NAACP advocating for students, parents, and teachers in Boston Public Schools.
Ignacio joined HLA in September of 2021 as a Paralegal for our MHAP for Kids. Prior to joining the MHAP for Kids team, Ignacio was a Research Assistant at the Center for Media at Risk of the Annenberg School. Other experiences include interning at Americans for the Arts, SiriusXM, and serving on WQHS Radio’s board as Community Engagement Director. Ignacio earned his B.A. in Communication and minor in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
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