NEWS AND STORIES

 

Fall Events

Justice Jam

The Battle of the Bands is coming to Cobb County! See your favorite lawyers and legal professionals wage an all-out war to be crowned winner of Justice Jam '14!

The famous Earl Smith Strand Theater will play host to the hopefuls battling it out on September 25th for the coveted title of Justice Jam Band of the Year.

All proceeds will benefit Legal Aid of Cobb County/Cobb Justice Foundation, dedicated to helping low-income residents with civil legal issues ranging from domestic violence to wills and advance directives.

Tickets are available for $25 each and include a drink ticket and heavy hors d'oeuvres. Special host packages are on sale for $150. The Strand will also provide a full cash bar and concessions to keep you rocking.

Justice Jam

A Little Help For Our Friends

A Little Help For Our Friends

Ink & Elm

Experience artisan bourbons from the South paired with roasted pork, salt-crusted whole roasted fish, roast beef, and a variety of locally sourced, organic seasonal side dishes prepared with a modern elevated Southern flair. Chefs and bourbon specialists will mingle with guests to create a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience.

All proceeds go to the Health Law Partnership, "an interdisciplinary community collaboration among the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Georgia State University College of Law to improve the health of low-income children and their families."

Get tickets now.

Run For Justice 2014

2014 Run For Justice

The Atlanta Legal Aid Society will hold its 22nd Run for Justice in Oakhurst on November 8th, 2014. The event will benefit the general operating fund of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Participants in the Run for Justice will enjoy a beautiful a 5-k course beginning and ending at One Step at A Time, 650 East Lake Drive, Decatur, GA 30030. Others can enjoy the crisp autumn day with the 5k walk, great for families and children. Jogging strollers, kids and pets are welcome! Awards will be presented to the top 5-k finishers and teams in a variety of categories, including pets, children and strollers. Families, corporate, church, school and community teams are welcome. We always need volunteers, too!

Registration and more info.

OLMSTEAD at 15

Advocates and people with disabilities celebrated the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision at the Carter Center in Atlanta.  "Long Road Home," an annual celebration of the Olmstead decision led by and organized by self-advocates with disabilities, began in Georgia and has since gone national, with Long Road Home events in eight states.

The most memorable and inspiring parts of any Olmstead celebration are the personal stories of people who have returned to their communities after being liberated from confinement in nursing homes and institutions.  Throughout the event, people proclaimed, "I Am Olmstead," and told about traveling their own road home.

Speakers At Olmstead Celebration

Implementing Olmstead in Georgia has progressed significantly in the last few years, but not without serious problems.  An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that 30 out of 40 deaths that have occurred in community group homes since 2010 were unexpected. The article also cited reports of abuse, neglect, and accidental injuries.

Eve Hill, United States Justice Department, Civil Rights Division, and Commissioner Frank Berry, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, spoke of the progress and the challenges in implementing Olmstead and addressed the issues presented in the AJC article.  Commissioner Frank Berry said that the article told  only half the story.  “What the article did not show is the hundreds of individuals who have successfully transferred into their own homes,” he said.

Hill agreed that she had personally witnessed many lives that benefited from the settlement.  Restating the DOJ's commitment, she said,  “. . .  as we’ve discussed with the state many times, and I think Commissioner Berry agrees, moving people from warehousing them in large state hospitals to isolating them in poor, isolated or abusive group homes is not acceptable.”   She went on to say, “These issues are not a reason to stop helping people live in their communities.”

Throughout the event, attendees enjoyed a self-advocate art exhibit, and Peter Grosz of Roustabout Media donated never-before-seen film clips from a documentary showing how the Olmstead case happened.

"We were thrilled with the enthusiasm and excitement everyone had to commemorate Olmstead," said Talley Wells, Atlanta Legal Aid's Disability Integration Project Director. "It shows the impact it is having.  Over two hundred people registered for the event, including Justice Department attorneys from Washington DC, the leadership of Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Atlanta lawyers, and people with disabilities from across the state."

Lillian Caudle of the Host Committee, said, "The event was uplifting.  To be sure, there is so much more work to be done--and, thankfully, there are dedicated individuals and organizations devoted to finishing the task--but I was most touched by the joy in the room.  When you think about the journey so far and how so many barriers have been overcome after so many decades of unjust treatment, it was understandably a victorious celebration of life and freedom.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have been there."

See the new web site, OlmsteadRights.org

Thanks to Virginia Hawkins for our pictures.

Art Show at Olmstead 15th Anniversary

Host Amanda Plumb interviewed Talley Wells (ALAS Manager of the Disability Integration Project) and Harold Anderson (ALAS Board Member and Executive Committee Member) earlier this year for North Avenue Lounge on WREK.

Harold Anderson and Talley Wells

HeLP Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago, Atlanta Legal Aid, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia State University College of Law joined together to provide legal help for low-income families of children hospitalized at Children's hospitals. The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) is one of the first of its kind in the country, and the first in the Southeast.

A former nurse, HeLP Director Sylvia Caley said that she got the idea for the organization while working for Atlanta Legal Aid. "We saw a lot of people with medical problems," she said. "I kept thinking if we had a Legal Aid office closer to the hospital, people wouldn't get lost in translation."

HeLP Gets Started
Steve Gottlieb, Charity Scott, Dale Hetzler

Caley brought the idea to Steve Gottlieb, Atlanta Legal Aid's Executive Director, and Charity Scott, Director of GSU's College of Law Center for Law, Health and Society. They presented the idea to Dale Hetzler, then General Counsel at Children's, who immediately said, "This sounds like something we want to do for our patients."

"In introducing the program, we asked the question, 'What should we do when a young patient with asthma must make repeat visits to the Emergency department, not because he doesn't have his medication or his asthma action plan, but because the apartment he lives in has mold that the landlord refuses to remediate?' That is a real example of how we can help, something everyone can easily see," said Steve Gottlieb.

Of course, there are many other ways lawyers can help. Cases from the first few weeks of operation include:

  • Medicaid denials of coverage;
  • Section 8 eviction for nonpayment of utilities, for a child who has stage IV neuroblastoma;
  • apartment conditions issues, including flooding, sewage back up, flea infestation, for a child who has End Stage Renal Disease;
  • an employment lay-off, which a mother believes was a ruse due to the costs of insuring her sick child;
  • several Family Medical Leave Act questions;
  • a homeless mother's flight from domestic violence, resulting in her juvenile diabetic daughter's being hospitalized due to non-treatment;
  • special education needs for a newly-diagnosed juvenile diabetics (Type 1) with a non-cooperative school;
  • loss of SSI and Medicaid for a child after her liver transplant; and
  • consent for care and guardianship issues.

In the last ten years, HeLP has handled more than 6,000 legal issues for children and their families. Most cases involve family law, special education, housing (especially housing conditions, which make people sick), Medicaid and SSI. 

A National Award

HeLP was honored by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) with the 2014 Outstanding Medical-Legal Partnership Award. The award is given annually to recognize programs that have made legal care part of the delivery of healthcare for vulnerable people and that have demonstrated significant impact on patient care and healthcare clinic practice.

Megan Sandel, Medical Director at the NCMLP said, "We were very impressed with your long 10 year track record of excellence as a Medical-Legal Partnership, particularly in building the evidence base for medical-legal partnership as an important part of healthcare!"

Memorable HeLP Cases

A Life-Saving Intervention

Health Law Partnership staff attorney Payal Kapoor worked on an emergency custody modification case for an eight-month-old baby on life support and in need of a heart transplant who was unable to get on the heart transplant list due to her mother's financial instability. Because of the urgency, Payal met with the transplant team to discuss how the child could get listed and determined that modifying custody to the baby’s maternal grandmother was the only option. She then drove to a jail where the father was incarcerated to obtain his signature agreeing to the modification, in a rare Atlanta snow storm. After a judge signed the Order, the child was immediately listed for a transplant and was able to get a new heart a day and a half later, on Valentine’s Day. The transplant team said that without the Order modifying custody to the baby's maternal grandmother, the baby would not be here today.

Payal says, "The work we do saves and improves lives and makes me proud to be a lawyer."

International Cooperation

The father, Mr. H, had earlier given the mother a paper to sign in English (although she was illiterate in any language) telling her that it was permission for his sister to travel with the child to visit their families in Ecuador. Ms. IH's sister-in-law took the little girl to Ecuador in late August. Once they arrived, Mr. H's mother picked them up at the airport but would not let Ms. IH's mother see her. A couple of weeks later, Mr. H traveled to Ecuador. Once there, he told Ms. IH that neither he nor the baby were going to come back.

She learned then that her child's father and the man she thought was her husband, was married to a woman in Ecuador, and that the papers she had signed actually gave sole custody of the child to Mr. H. Mr. H threatened that if Ms. IH made any legal move to get the child back, he would take the child and move to Spain, where his wife has a work permit and could get him into the country as her spouse.

Our HeLP lawyers asked Nelson Mullins for assistance with this international problem, and their immigration section volunteered their expertise. Fortunately, Ms. IH had a great deal of evidence that the US was the child's normal home: birth certificate, US Passport, copies of immunization records, video of birthday parties, etc. The team at Nelson Mullins filed a Hague Convention petition and a number of other pleadings here and found volunteer counsel in Ecuador. A judge here signed an order compelling the child's return.

The local counsel took the order to the court in Ecuador and the judge there domesticated the order, an action our State Department says is very unusual, almost unprecedented. The father tried twice to leave the country; however, Nelson Mullins had made the Spanish authorities aware of the issue, and Mr. H was not able to leave Ecuador with the child. The authorities in Ecuador were able to take the child away from Mr. H and his family, and then the Ecuadorian vice-consul personally escorted the child back to the US.

Celebrating at Wimbish House

The Center for Law, Health and Society at Georgia State University College of Law celebrated its 10th anniversary along with HeLP at the beautiful and historic Wimbish House.

Read more about the 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Many more pictures here.

Wimbish House, Sylvia Caley Standing

The Georgia Legislature
Recognizes HeLP

During the 2014 legislative session, House Resolution 1549 was read on the floor honoring the Health Law Partnership for ten years of exemplary service to Georgia's children and their families. Since its inception in 2004, HeLP has assisted more than 6,000 low-income children. Read House Resolution 1549.

Sylvia Caley's "Health Legislation and Advocacy" drafted a bill to create a certification process for collaborative medical-legal partnerships, while encouraging development of more.

Rep. Trey Kelley sponsored the bill with Rep. Sharon Cooper, chair of the House Health and Human Services committee; and Rep. Rick Jasperse, committee vice chair.

“This legislation will not only save important state Medicaid dollars, but also it will provide effective health care treatment for Georgia citizens,” Kelley says.

The House passed House Bill 910 by a large margin late in the session, and it moved to the Senate where it was referred to the Health and Human Services committee. It will be reintroduced next year.