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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.
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.
"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."
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.
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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."
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:
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.
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!"
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.
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