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Access to Health and Public Benefits

Pregnant woman meeting with nurse in clinic to discuss pregnancy

Many barriers keep people from getting the care they deserve. Medicaid does not cover dental care for adults. Some healthcare providers fail to provide language interpreters to those in need. Maternal health providers often aren’t trained to be culturally sensitive to expectant Black mothers. These are just a few of the ways that our healthcare systems fail our communities, and in particular, fail people of color.

The Public Justice Center uses legal tools to reform these systems. We advocate to protect and expand eligibility for healthcare coverage and access to appropriate, affordable, effective and culturally competent healthcare. We seek to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to benefits.

Here’s what we’re working on:

Impact

Together with the Reproductive Health Equity Alliance of Maryland, worked with the Maryland Department of Health to establish the Doula Technical Assistance Advisory Group, which draws on leadership and insight from birth workers, researchers, advocates, and people with lived experience and aims to lay a foundation for equitable and inclusive voluntary doula certification and Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement for doulas. Expanding funding and access to community-based doulas can help address racial disparities in maternal healthcare. As a result of our advocacy, Maryland is set to join a handful of states in providing doula Medicaid reimbursement in early 2022. 

Worked in coalition with End Medical Debt Maryland to successfully advocate for the passage of the 2021 Medical Debt Protection Act, a strong foundation for protecting low-income Marylanders’ livelihoods, homes, and potential for intergenerational wealth transfer from harmful hospital medical debt collection practices.

Worked with the Maryland Hepatitis Coalition and Marylanders Against Poverty to expand access to access to Hepatitis C medication, successfully advocating to remove a requirement that Maryland Medical Assistance beneficiaries have liver damage in order to be eligible for treatment. To learn more about this advocacy and the barriers to accessing Hepatitis C treatment through Maryland’s Medicaid program, check out the video from this Justice for Breakfast presentation.

Filed a lawsuit that compelled the State of Maryland to eliminate a backlog of over 9,000 Medicaid applications for people with disabilities and agree to promptly process all applications going forward.

Filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service after a local Kool Smiles dental office failed to provide an interpreter to a Deaf client. The complaint resulted in Kool Smiles implementing a number of changes to ensure that its employees accommodate Deaf and hard of hearing clients at its 125 locations across the country.

Every child should have access to an education. But school district practices often keep kids from attending and succeeding in school. Overuse of suspension and expulsion pushes kids out of school without addressing the underlying causes of behavior. Paperwork requirements, zoning policies, fees, school uniform rules, and transportation policies make it hard for students who are homeless or in foster care to enroll and attend classes.

The Public Justice Center’s Education Stability Project seeks to advance racial equity in public education by combatting the overuse of practices like suspension, expulsion, and school-based arrest that disproportionately target Black and brown children and push students out of school. We also seek to eliminate barriers to school enrollment and success facing homeless children and children in foster care. We use a range of legal and advocacy tools to improve the systems that educate Maryland’s youth.

In particular, the Education Stability Project:

Addresses practices that push students out of school, including suspension, expulsion, transfers to alternative school, and school-based arrest. These practices can prevent or discourage young people from staying on track to complete their education and harm youth of color at a higher rate than their white peers. As the lead member of the Maryland Suspension Representation Project, we take on these challenges through individual representation in suspension and expulsion cases, know-your-rights education for youth and parents, and systemic advocacy.

Advocates to ensure that children who are homeless or in foster care can stay in school, by enforcing the McKinney-Vento Act and Fostering Connections Act across Maryland. These laws give homeless students and students in foster care the right to stay in school and receive the support needed for their success. This support includes the opportunity to stay in the same school following an address change, school transportation, waiver of school fees, guarantee of immediate enrollment without paperwork, and many other rights.

If you are looking for legal assistance, call us at (410) 625-9409 or visit our Get Legal Help pages for more information on school suspensions and expulsions and students who are homeless or in foster care.

Impact

PJC advocacy prompts reform of Baltimore County school discipline policy

Seniors graduate after challenging unnecessary suspensions

Tackled, arrested, suspended…for trying to call for a ride home: Advocacy reverses inappropriate suspension, prompts training of school staff