Embracing Mental Health Courts

By: Alyssa Potts, HeLP Legal Services Clinic, Spring 2018 Intern

Mental health courts are being widely embraced in many communities in America as of late. The idea behind mental health courts is simple—instead of sending someone who is suffering from a mental illness to jail or prison for their crimes, where there is little to no possibility of their condition being properly managed and treated, the individual is offered treatment through the court where they are also offered housing and other social services. The goal of these programs is to reduce recidivism and decrease the amount of contact that people with mental illnesses have with the criminal justice system by providing them with treatment and resources to improve their social functioning where they may not be able to do so on their own. This is a win-win situation because taxpayers save money that would have been spent to house someone in jail, and the offenders with mental health issues are able to receive the support and services they need to manage their conditions and often have the chance to have their record expunged after successful completion of the mental health program. It is commonly thought that the standard punishments for criminals are ineffective when applied to the mentally ill, especially when the mental illness was the aggravating circumstance that led to the crime taking place in the first place. Inspired by other “problem-solving courts” like drug courts and community courts, mental health courts are blazing a new pathway, with over 300 mental health courts in place nationwide in less than 30 years of practice.

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All That and a Bag of CHIP(s)

By: Alyssa Potts

In recent months, you have probably heard on the news station or read in the newspaper about something called “CHIP.” If you’re like me, you probably questioned what chips had to do with kids and healthcare and why you should care about it. Of course, I soon figured out that everyone was referring to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This past September, CHIP funding lapsed causing a great amount of stress for families across the country. CHIP is a program that was implemented in 1997 and covers 9 million children nationwide, as well as over 370,000 pregnant women, per year. The program covers children up until the age of 19. This program is so important and needed because it helps lower- and middle-income families who are ineligible for Medicaid acquire health insurance for their children. CHIP, which may go by a different name depending on the state, is low-cost insurance for families with incomes too high for Medicaid, but potentially too low to afford private insurance plans. The program covers routine check-ups, doctor visits, prescriptions, emergency services, and hospital care, among other things.

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How Unhealthy Housing Affects Children and How Attorneys Can Help

By: Carly Morrison, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern 

What is unhealthy housing?

Unhealthy housing is related to exposure to toxins and other environmental factors. The CDC has defined unhealthy housing as the presence of any characteristics that might negatively affect the health of its occupants, including evidence of rodents, water leaks, peeling paint in homes built before 1978, the absence of a working smoke detector, and poor air quality from mold or radon.

Why is unhealthy housing a problem for children?

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Check Your Privilege, Especially When Working with Clients

By: Michelle Wilco, Spring 2018 Intern, HeLP Legal Services Clinic

Virtually everyone benefits from some form of privilege. Privilege has become a “dirty” word, and people often get defensive about admitting to benefitting from it, but having privilege merely means you have gotten some benefit from an unearned advantage. For example, you benefit from privilege if you have access to clean drinking water. Benefitting from privilege does not mean you have not suffered or encountered hardships, or that your privilege outweighs your suffering, and it does not mean you are automatically prejudiced against those who do not share your privilege. Admitting biases, prejudices, and privilege does not have to be negative; it can be a positive step toward understanding from where those beliefs stem, learning how to recognize when those beliefs are negatively and unfairly influencing your decision making, and eliminating unsubstantiated stereotypes. In fact, turning a blind eye to privilege can have lasting, damaging repercussions. For example, there has been interesting research conducted recently about whether police training on implicit bias can effectively reduce the instances of harmful effects of race and gender bias in law enforcement.

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Discovering Health Law and Health in All Policies

By: Jobena Hill, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

The Public Health Institute defines the “Health in All Policies” initiative as a “collaborative approach to improving the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors and policy areas.” The purpose of this meaningful approach to policy making is to ensure that the policy developmental process is informed by the health consequences of the various policy options. Over the past couple of months, I have come to understand and appreciate the concept of Health in All Policies and how it relates to the lawmaking process, and the practice of law in general. Prior to learning about Health in All Policies, I never truly considered the health implications of policies that were not easily identified as health related, such as transportation or zoning.

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The Practical Value of Clinical Legal Education

By: Robert L. Yates, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

It’s fair to assume that most law students come to law school with the goal of becoming practicing attorneys. Unfortunately, most courses offered in the law school curriculum teach only the substantive law and how to apply it in a brief or memo. Obviously, these skills are important; however, there is much more to practicing law in the real world. Luckily, Georgia State University College of Law boasts three in-house clinics and several off-site clinics which offer students the chance to develop practical and professional skills by working on real cases for real clients.

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