Graduate earns fellowship to bridge medical-legal gap
(July 15, 2011) Kevin De Liban, a May 2011 graduate, has earned a fellowship to create medical-legal partnerships to serve people facing poverty in eastern Arkansas.
De Liban will be an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with Legal Aid of Arkansas. His task is to build from scratch medical-legal partnerships between the organization and various community health centers throughout eastern Arkansas, a region with above-average rates of poverty, unemployment and disability and below-average rates of educational attainment and life expectancy.
Medical-legal partnerships work to bridge the gap between medical and legal service providers to deliver services in a more efficient, effective, and client-friendly way. The goal is to make the lawyer part of the medical treatment team and address the social causes of poor health outcomes and to engage medical providers to identify potential legal problems of their patients. After doctors identify that an issue may exist, they can refer the patient to a lawyer, who will have regular hours on-site in the health clinic. That initial meeting and intake will then be followed by substantial legal work when needed.
"This way, a patient can have an immediate gateway into legal services and avoid the risk of falling through the cracks, as so often happens when one service provider simply gives someone a phone number to another service provider," De Liban said.
De Liban has long been committed to serving people in need and providing them access to services. He gained substantial experience working with many organizations, including LAW Advocates in Bellingham, Columbia Legal Services, and the law school's Youth Advocacy and Community Development Clinics. He also spent several months working with a legal services provider in Cochabamba, Bolivia, providing legal and counseling services to Bolivian domestic violence survivors and leading workshops for rural indigenous women, at-risk youth, and high school students. He is fluent in Spanish, which will benefit his Spanish-speaking clients in Arkansas.
Before law school, De Liban was a social worker and a campaign finance assistant for the San Francisco Ethics Commission. He graduated from law school summa cum laude and was one of just two Scholars for Justice chosen for their commitment to working in the public interest. Among his co-workers will be Amy Pritchard '09, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid of Arkansas.
"This position lets me be a social entrepreneur, a social worker, and a lawyer all at the same time," he said. "I know the experience will be challenging in many ways, which is precisely why it's exciting. I hope to approach the experience humbly, with an open heart, and learn all that the people in eastern Arkansas have to teach me."