Raising Up Voices Impacted by Investment in Civil Legal Aid

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Last month, Executive Director Genevieve Richardson introduced Skyler M. Rosellini, Staff Attorney with our Health Consumer Center (HCC) and his inspiring client, Álida Pepper, to an audience gathered to recognize the importance of investment in civil legal aid—and the need for more. The event was hosted by the American Bar Association at their annual meeting in San Francisco, in support of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a nonprofit that provides funding to civil legal aid providers for the poor across the country, including BayLegal.

Skyler and Álida represent the crucial advocate-client partnership that is made possible by the funding of nonprofit civil legal aid. At the event, Skyler described the wide advocacy scope of HCC’s work—a way to address the “many, many problems that come up often with accessing healthcare.” “It’s very easy for things to go wrong,” he said, “especially for our most vulnerable clients—clients who are low-income, clients who are disabled, our senior clients. BayLegal [sees] every day why people need an advocate by their side to help them navigate the health system.” Hear his speech in full here.

Álida spoke of her innumerable attempts to access life-saving, gender-affirming medical services under Medi-Cal (it had become “like a war of attrition,” she recalled) before reaching out to Skyler and the HCC team at BayLegal for assistance. She reflected powerfully on the implications of her experience:

I think what my experience shows is what’s at stake for a lot of people who don’t have the access—or the resources to access—really necessary things in our healthcare system. We need advocates. We need allies. And we need that support to get through what often is a very overwhelming system. I’m lucky enough that since I’ve been able to access this care, my life has gotten much better. I’ve moved from being homeless to being housed… to actually having employment and a career. And I’m actually even working at this point [on] founding a nonprofit…with other trans people to help improve conditions for other people in my community. I think it’s important for me to remind myself…that healthcare is more than just a set of procedures. We talk about healthcare and we think about health, but what’s really important is care. This is a system of caring, and I feel that BayLegal’s work has been really essential to me in making my healthcare something that cares for me.

Hear Álida’s entire speech here.

As Genevieve explained to the audience, LSC funding has been critical in supporting BayLegal’s ability to always remain responsive to, and address the needs of, the people in our communities, including people like Álida: “We are an example that the investment in civil legal aid is the investment in justice,” she said. “It is an investment in civil rights, into justice, and the effective prevention of homelessness, abuse, hunger, displacement, and financial instability.” Hear the rest of her speech here.