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Legal Aid provides help for clients struggling with mental health

By Tonya Sams
Many people suffer in silence when struggling with mental health issues. These issues can affect every area of one’s life—even how they address legal issues that impact basic needs like shelter, safety, and economic security. Client Support Specialists at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland recognize how a client’s battle with mental health challenges can impact their legal cases. People work with Legal Aid attorneys to implement strategies to help them have positive case outcomes while improving mental health outcomes.
“Client Support Specialists are professionals who provide assistance and support to those who are receiving legal assistance from Legal Aid who may have a barrier related to their legal case,” said Aisha Midgett, a Client Support Specialist at Legal Aid. The Client Support Specialists at Legal Aid make a team of three trained social workers. For over a decade, Client Support Specialists, working closely with attorneys and paralegals, have played a critical role in ensuring the best possible outcomes for client success and overall wellbeing.
When mental health issues are involved, it can dramatically affect a client’s case.
“It can have a significant impact in various ways,” said Aisha. “It can affect their ability to make informed decisions, their ability to understand the legal process and legal language. They may not have the ability to engage with their case, so they are missing appointments, won’t return calls, or won’t follow through on tasks.”
To help clients resolve these issues, Aisha and other Client Support Specialists at Legal Aid will conduct an intake to determine the obstacles that may cause the client not to be actively involved in their case. They help identify the client’s needs, establish goals to help them along the legal process, and link them to community resources and programs that may help them with their mental issues. Many of these resources and programs offer crisis prevention, suicide resources, crisis hotlines, and educational information.
People with low income experiencing mental health issues may have additional challenges when it comes to finding proper assistance. This may be due to limited access to therapists, counselors, or case management professionals.
Beyond the financial barrier to accessing care, “There is a social stigma about sharing mental health issues with people which hinders their ability to have access to health resources,” said Aisha. “There are also other challenges. People could be struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence, and trauma. They could also be dealing with chronic health conditions. All of these things overlap which can heighten the possibility of being exposed to mental health challenges.”
Client Support Specialists also assist with crisis intervention for clients who have experienced a crisis or are at risk by creating a safety plan. Safety plans are unique to each individual. They are designed to help them feel safe, and connected to people experiencing a crisis. For some people, this could be a sheet of paper that includes information from emergency organizations, local hospitals, and others they can contact when they are in a crisis. It can also include information on coping skills.
“There are clients that never talk about their feelings, but we give them access to help and get them linked to organizations to receive mental health services that will work with them on a longterm basis to improve their mental health,” said Aisha. “Remember, it is okay to ask for help. You are never alone.”
Do you need help with a civil legal matter? Legal Aid may be able to help.  Call Legal Aid at 888-8173777 during normal business hours, or contact us online 24/7 at lasclev. org/contact/.
Tonya Sams is a Development & Communications Manager at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.