During the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Annual Meeting in San Francisco, held August 8-9, 2019, BayLegal attorneys shared their expertise on legal services for youth who have been victims of human trafficking, people impacted by the opioid epidemic, and people experiencing housing instability in Contra Costa County.
Palmer Buchholz, Staff Attorney with the Youth Justice Unit, described the interdisciplinary legal services that BayLegal provides to clients who have been trafficked, and who face substantial hurdles in reaching a place of physical safety and economic stability. BayLegal’s services for this population include legal recourse to address “physical and economic security, restraining orders and barriers to housing and employment.” Buchholz also addressed BayLegal’s partnership with DreamCatcher Youth Services, a safe house for youth who have experienced or are at risk of trafficking in Alameda County, which works to link youth with peer support and community services such as BayLegal.
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) held a LSC Forum on Increasing Access to Justice to continue its focus on the legal response to the opioid crisis, as underscored in a June 2019 report issued by its Opioid Task Force (created in April 2018 to assess the interplay of civil legal aid and people affected by opioid abuse disorder). BayLegal attorneys Steve Weiss (SSI/SA Regional Managing Attorney) and Jia Min Cheng (Medical-Legal Partnership Project Coordinator and Senior Staff Attorney) participated in a panel regarding legal responses to the opioid crisis, during which they addressed how BayLegal’s civil legal services reach people impacted by opioid abuse, the variety of interrelated civil legal issues that they may face, and successful collaborations with county agencies and healthcare providers.
The forum also included talks by Dr. Susan R. Bailey, president-elect of the American Medical Association, and David Hoffman, co-chair of LSC’s Opioid Task Force, which addressed the importance of medical-legal partnerships to help patients and clients impacted by the legal and physical consequences of addiction. Hoffman explained the particular challenges that the crisis poses for civil legal aid attorneys, noting that while clients impacted by opioid abuse disorder have cases in areas that are familiar to legal aid attorneys (employment law, housing law, family law, collateral consequences from criminal proceedings) the problem is one of volume. He explained, “Because the opioid abuse disorder causes lives to collapse, it creates three, four, five, six [legal] matters for one individual, so we have these interconnected matters.”
These events presented a vital opportunity for BayLegal to share the ways in which our work is deeply embedded in the needs of our communities, and tuned to address the interlocking legal, medical, economic, and social barriers that our clients face.