Tag Archives: Spokane

New CAFO Draft Fails to Protect Water Quality

Although there are few if any CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) in the Spokane River Watershed, this is an extremely important issue when it comes to our statewide water quality!

Cow pic

The issue:

There are over 400 industrial dairy operations that run over 200,000 dairy cows throughout Washington state. These industrial dairy operations generate over 20 million pounds of untreated manure per day! This manure ends up in unlined lagoons, causing the groundwater in these areas to become seriously contaminated. When this contamination occurs it worsens our overall water quality resulting in unsafe drinking water and damage to nearby river ecosystems. Many farmers try to dispose of manure by over-applying manure onto their fields, however the excess then runs off into our rivers and creeks destroying aquatic life.

Unfortunately due to the strong influence big Agriculture seems to be having on the decision making of the Washington State Department of Ecology, the new draft permit is not sufficient in handling this issue.

The permit will inevitably fail to protect our waterways, this is why we need your help!

How you can help:

Help protect these fragile ecosystems by sending your comments to the Washington Department of Ecology.

In order to fully protect the public, and local wildlife from the dangerous pollutants currently in our waterways, Ecology must incorporate the following provisions in its final permit:

  • Mandatory groundwater monitoring
  • Science-based manure application requirements and restrictions
  • Science-based riparian (stream side vegetation) buffers for salmon-bearing stream
  • Implementation of best technology for CAFO operations such as synthetically-lined manure lagoons and other known and reasonably available technologies to eliminate discharges to surface and groundwater

For more information on the issue visit the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.

Public hearings will be held on Tuesday July 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm at Whatcom Community College and Thursday July 28, 2016 at 6:00 pm at the Yakima Convention Center. Ecology will also be holding a webinar on the draft permit on Wednesday July 27 at 2:00 pm.

Please send your comments to Governor Inslee as well so he understands the publics’ concern in regards to this issue.

Retreat Yourself

Retreat Yourself

by Haley B. Brown (Center for Justice Legal Intern/Women Leading With Purpose Retreat Attendee ‘16)

As I drove up to Coeur D’Alene with two of my classmates for a weekend away from law school, I started to panic. We all started to panic.

“Did you get all of your reading done for next week?”

“I already feel behind not spending my weekend at the library”

“How will I be able to get ahead of my reading schedule now?”

“I’m too busy to be here.”

But, as we forced ourselves to chat about things outside the realm of law school over sour gummy candy, with the view of CDA Lake fast approaching, that panic began to melt away.

The Women Leading with Purpose Retreat is an annual event run through the Center for Justice for female law students at Gonzaga University School of Law. The Retreat provides those that decide to attend a weekend away from law school on the beautiful CDA lake, little to no cell service, time for personal reflection, relationship building, and much more.

I had just completed my first semester of law school at Gonzaga when I attended the retreat, and had already convinced myself that it was going to be a lonely, miserable three years. All of my free-time that I once filled with hobbies that enriched my life seemed to vanish. I rarely saw my husband and all of my girlfriends were now states away. (Not to mention, on top of figuring out my first semester of law school I was in the midst of trying to learn how to drive my husband’s car, a manual 5-speed, after we sold my vehicle to save money for school. This was like the least amount of fun I have ever had in my entire life. . . but, I digress.) Law school was all consuming; it consumed all of my time, all of my thoughts and all of my conversations. I didn’t feel like myself and was experiencing more self-doubt that I ever had before. To top it all off, I was convinced I was the only one of my classmates who was experiencing this. Most people seemed like they had it all figured out.

The Retreat taught me that law school doesn’t have to be lonely or miserable. In fact, I learned that I was surrounded by strong, supportive female classmates who had experiences just like mine that will enrich my law school experience and provide me a shoulder to lean on, cry on, or stand on if necessary. But, had it not been for the retreat, I am not sure I would have had the chance (or the courage), to get to know the 11 classmates I spent my weekend with on the deep personal level that I did. Until that time, most conversations I had with these women and all of my other classmates were school related and surface level. I left that weekend more committed to developing deep, personal relationships in school, work and in my personal life.

Additionally, being at the retreat afforded me the time to look inward, reflect and morph back into the person that I was before coming to law school. I left feeling more like myself with a renewed sense of purpose, a louder voice, and a reminder of why I chose to come to law school in the first place. I also left committed to learning how to bake bread, something I had been continually putting off with criminal law reading.

Like all good things, the retreat had to come to an end. As my two classmates and I headed back to the reading, outlines, flashcards, and significant others that awaited our return, not one of us felt panicked. Instead, we felt and continue to feel empowered and driven to be women leading with purpose.

Rise for Justice results & more!

We are almost speechless! The Center for Justice hosted its very first Rise for Justice breakfast on May 19th at the Davenport Grand Hotel. The event results are above and beyond what we could have hoped for! Here is quick recap of the proceedings. The event began at 7:30 am with a welcome and thank you from Matt Santangelo. Matt is the Executive Director for Spokane Hoopfest Association and we were very grateful for his willingness to act as our Master of Ceremonies for this event. With 435 guests in attendance, the room was full of passionate community members who care about social justice issues in Spokane. Several elected officials and judges were also in attendance as well, each of whom were recognized during Matt’s introduction. Following the introduction, our Executive Director, Rick Eichstaedt, was introduced and then recognized the Board of Directors and table hosts for their efforts, concluding with an introduction of our notable keynote speaker, Justice Mary I. Yu. She spoke about the need for civil legal aid in Washington and the importance of organizations like the Center as key players in the community. She referred to Spokane as a “beacon of hope” for the rest of the state, and touched on the importance of the work being done by the center here in Spokane. Following her speech, Matt came back up to thank Justice Yu and then to introduce a video produced by Hamilton Studio that gave a wonderful synopsis of the work done at the Center. The 12 minute video featured attorneys and program staff members and demonstrated all of the ways the Center interacts in the community. Following the video, Sharon Smith took the stage and gave a compelling and heartfelt call to action. Once Sharon had finished and instructed table hosts on how to collect donations, Matt gave another thank you to all of the attendees and concluded the event with an inspirational quote from Dr. Cornell West: “Justice is what LOVE looks like in public.”

The event was an overwhelming success, with a net profit of approximately $43,500, exceeding the amount we had anticipated and the goal previously set. The 54 table hosts all did a fantastic job and filled their tables with generous and interested community members!

This event would not have been possible without our hard working event committee that consisted of Elsa Distelhorst, Patty Gates, Kim Harmson, Jake Krummel, and Lorna St. John. A special thank you as well to our table sponsors, Mary Alberts, Micheal Chappell, Elsa Distelhorst, Foster Pepper PLLC,  Kim and Jeff Harmson, Kalispel Tribe and Northern Quest Resort & Casino, Merriman Wealth Management, Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County, Numerica Credit Union, and Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund. We would like to send a special shout out to our Media Partner, Don Hamilton and Lorna St. John from Hamilton Studio and our video host, Jake Krummel of Numerica, for the impressive video! We are also grateful to Robert Lee, Della Higgins, Bill Keizer, Dr. Darin Neven and Ben Stuckart for their openness to celebrate and share our work with the community. Finally, a huge thank you to our friend and sponsor, Sharon Smith, for leading the vital community call to action.

In case you missed it…check out the video below!

 

 

Community Court

 

IMG_0179I was walking in downtown Spokane on my way to the library headed to Community Court. It is where all the cool kids hang out on Mondays mid-morning to early afternoon. Why do we hang out there, you may ask. Because we care about our community, because we want to help people, we want to make an impact.

Who are these cool kids and what do they do at the downtown library? We are a ragtag group of community organizations that collaborates with the courts to get disadvantaged (and usually impoverished) people the services they need.

Community Court is open to everyone but many start through the courts, as low level, non-violent offenders that would otherwise be jailed for minor offences that are often related their homelessness, drug or alcohol dependency or mental illness. Putting them in jail for minor offenses is expensive for the city and doesn’t help these folks. So the prosecutors, public defenders and the judge collaborate with community organizations to get them services instead.

There are a variety of organizations there to help people get signed up for mental health services, housing, public benefits and oh so much more. I go to represent the Center for Justice and to help people sign up for Medicaid or Washington Apple Health as it’s known in these parts.

Back to my story. I continued my stroll through downtown. IMG_0166The sun was shining, the air was crisp and not many people were out. I always enjoy the walk when the weather is nice. It’s only about a half a mile from my office and the stretch runs along beautiful Riverfront Park with its artwork, fountain and the river running right through the middle of it.

As I got close to crossing the street near the library, a bicyclist sped by and made eye contact. I gave a little nod and he nodded back. He was long and lean and a stocking cap covered much of his head but I could make out some short dreads underneath. He was holding a large piece of cardboard in one hand as he raced by.

I got to the library and settled in at my table with all the other service providers. Said my hellos to friends and set up my computer and my vast array of pamphlets. It got busy.

The tall cyclist came wandering in and sat at my table. He introduced himself. He had the name of a little town in California not too far from where I used to live in my youth. Hearing it brought a smile to my face.

He was soft spoken and polite. He looked like a guy who had just fallen on hard times and was trying to get himself back on track. I signed him up for healthcare without a hitch. He thanked me and left my table. I distractedly went on about my work and finished up for the day.

As I was walking out in a slew of others leaving, he came running up to me from behind. He was out of breath as he handed me the folded piece of cardboard. I opened it up and thanked him. He was gone in a flash. This is what he left behind. I think sharing his artwork was his way of extending a little gratitude for the help I had given him.

 

Comm Court pic

click the links below for more about community court

http://www.inlander.com/spokane/a-new-approach/Content?oid=2243257

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/apr/19/spokanes-community-court-gets-200000-boost/

http://www.spokanelibrary.org/community-court/

Fair Chance Hiring

By Julie Schaffer

March 2016

“Fair Chance Hiring,” also known as “Ban the Box,” is finally getting some much deserved airtime in Spokane. This is welcome news to the 1 in 4 individuals who have a criminal record and who desperately want to tell potential employers why they are the best pick for the job, an opportunity many of them do not get because of the box on the application that asks about criminal history.  Research shows that people who check the box rarely move forward in the hiring process, regardless of whether or not they qualify for the job, how long ago their conviction was, what it was for, or what they’ve done since that time.  To prevent this arbitrary rejection, and to ensure that employers are not missing out on undiscovered talent, 21 states and over 100 jurisdictions have mandated that employers delay asking about criminal history until later in the hiring process – ideally until after the applicant pool has been narrowed based on qualifications and after face-to-face interviews.  Under such policies, employers can still do background checks, they can still ask applicants about their criminal history, and they can still hire the best fit for the job.

Most policies apply to public employers (like City of Spokane’s current policy), but more and more jurisdictions are mandating that private employers comply as well. Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do (we used to allow businesses to disqualify people of color and women), it increases public safety by dramatically reducing the chance that someone will commit another crime, reduces reliance on public benefits, increases the tax base and helps the local economy, ensures that employers aren’t missing out on highly qualified employees, reduces costs related to incarceration, reduces racial disparity in hiring (people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and therefore suffer more from “the box,” and it allows people who have served their time to return to our community and help us make it thrive.

We are pleased that our city councilmembers are currently exploring whether to require private employers in Spokane to delay background checks until after the initial application stage, something the City has been doing (without incident) for the past year. City Council hosted a Fair Chance Hiring Forum on March 8 to educate themselves and the community more about this issue.  Councilmembers Stuckart and Beggs organized the forum, along with Smart Justice Spokane member orgs CFJ, PJALs and I Did the Time.  District Court Judge Richard Leland graciously moderated with humor and a genuine interest in how this relates to the cycle of crime he sees every day on the bench.  Approximately 100 people showed up (during the Gonzaga WCC championship game!), and it played live on City Cable 5 (Forum Video).  A WSU PhD student presented research showing that employment dramatically reduces crime, CFJ presented the common elements of fair chance hiring laws, and formerly incarcerated individuals courageously shared their personal stories of healing, change, education, and then heartbreaking rejection by ‘the box.”  The evening ended with a diverse panel of business people who have voluntarily removed the box with great results, the City’s Chief Civil Service Examiner who is implementing the City’s Fair Chance Hiring policy, GSI’s new CEO Todd Mielke, and the leader of I Did the Time Layne Pavey.  The discussion was rich and honest, and I believe it demonstrated that there is enough common ground and shared love for this community to create fair hiring in Spokane.

To learn more, visit www.nelp.org/campaign/ensuring-fair-chance-to-work, and watch the Forum Video.  And please spread the word and tell council members what you think (their emails are below).  Our leaders need to hear that the people in this community support Fair Chance Hiring!

Ben Stuckart [email protected]

Amber Waldref [email protected]

Mike Fagan  [email protected]

Candace Mumm [email protected]

Karen Stratton   [email protected]

Lori Kinnear   [email protected]

Breean Beggs   [email protected]

Hurt lingers 10 years after Zehm’s death

By Jeffry Finer / Special to The Spokesman-Review

I remember Otto Zehm.

Working downtown, I would see him from time to time walking, loping really – he walked fast and bounced from step to step – but I never so much as said hello. I did not know he was a musician, or that he had mental illness, that he sometimes heard things the rest of us didn’t. I knew he had the longest golden hair of anyone on the Spokane street scene. And he sang quietly to himself. He smiled but did not seem to want attention. He moved along in his own world. He’d be surprised what his name has come to mean. And how often city leaders and media cite his life and death.

For Spokane, his name evokes strong reactions.

Some see Otto’s death on a personal level. He was beloved by his family (mother, sister and cousins were closest). He was respected and liked at work (at the nonprofit Skils’kin, where he was a janitor). Friends said he was careless with generosity and would give you his only coat if he saw you were cold. Everyone knew him to be gentle.

Most of Spokane, of course, knows about his death in 2006 after two days on life support. We watched local media play and replay his videotaped beating and restraint by a half-dozen local police officers. We know about the City Hall cover-up, the federal criminal case and Officer Karl Thompson’s conviction.

For some of us, the “system worked.” For others, the aftermath of Otto’s death was a system failure that ruined a good cop.

If you voted in February 2013 for Proposition 1, and 70 percent of Spokane voters did, you remember Otto as the poster child for passage of a strongly worded demand for an independent police ombudsman. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the office of the ombudsman is in tatters.

Spokane tries to move on.

Officer Thompson has served his time and just this month has been released. The Use of Force Commission met for a year, issued two dozen specific recommendations and dissolved. Some recommendations have taken hold; others, such as changes to Spokane’s “police culture,” have not.

Local civil rights advocates press on – working hard to see that we get the independent ombudsman we overwhelmingly voted for, moving “smart justice” reforms ahead to fix our broken criminal justice system, and pushing the city to hire a new chief of police who is committed to implement the changes our community needs. Other law enforcement issues have come under scrutiny, such as the understaffed jail, its lack of nurses and timely medical services. Just more budget-driven problems facing us and every city and county in America.

Overall? We have yet to heal our relationship with our own peace officers. They have yet to heal their relationship with us.

On the day Officer Thompson was taken into custody, the Friday after the verdict finding him guilty of excessive force and lying in a federal investigation, I sat in the gallery behind Assistant Chief Craig Meidl. He and some four dozen men and women – off-duty police officers sworn to uphold the law – snapped to salute as federal marshals led Officer Thompson away. Otto’s middle-age cousins seated with me were stunned into silence. We looked for help but the court had left and its staff seemed powerless.

In 30 years, I’ve never felt such repressed tension in a courtroom. The marshals, wisely I think, took Thompson away uncuffed and the officers gradually left the courtroom. My apology to the Zehm cousins for the salute brought a cold stare from two officers. At the elevator, another officer blamed the sole reporter present for causing Thompson’s conviction.

It is said that no one should be judged solely by their worst day; and in that sense Officer Thompson’s supporters may have been feeling a conflicted affinity for him. But it remains troubling that the department has failed to account to the public for the embrace by 50 of its officers of a convicted felon. Troubling that there has been no apology and no consequences.

A lot needs doing to restore our faith and trust in our police. Their work requires such trust as surely as we require faithful police. The Center for Justice, where I work with a team of lawyers and community activists, coordinates with citizens, police and local officials to make our city safer and fairer for everyone.

Sometimes the struggle goes on quietly in meetings, or noisily in the media. But a certain spirit of gentleness inspires us at times to keep a memory of Otto Zehm alive. Not only as saber-rattling social change warriors but as neighbors, colleagues, friends and people who remember Otto Zehm.

Dave Dahl of Dave’s Killer Bread heading to Spokane to accept mayoral proclamation, talk second chances

by Mitch Ryals, Inlander blog 5/14/15

COURTESY OF DAVE DAHL
Dave Dahl, of Dave’s Killer Bread fame, will be in Spokane next week to promote the opening of the Fulcrum Institute’s new Ash Street Workforce Studio and accept a mayoral proclamation.

Dahl, cofounder of the Milwaukie, Oregon-based organic bread company, is known for his story of a second (and now third) chance after spending 15 years in and out of jail up until 2004. When he was released, he joined his family’s bread-making business, and with a renewed outlook on life and tons of ideas pinging around in his head, he opened Dave’s Killer Bread in August of 2005.

DKB is now sold in all 50 states and very financially successful. The company has grown to about 300 employees, about 100 of which are formerly incarcerated individuals like Dahl. He says he didn’t start the company with the intention of hiring ex-cons, but he was so grateful to the second chance his family gave him, that he felt he should do something for others in a similar situation.

Dahl will attend next Monday’s City Council meeting (6 p.m., Council chambers), during which Mayor Condon will announce Second Chance Week to promote the city’s new “ban the box” policy. It will be the first time Dahl will speak publicly since his most recent arrest after a mental breakdown in November 2013 in which he rammed a couple police cruisers with a black Cadillac Escalade.

Tuesday, Dahl will speak at a luncheon hosted by the Fulcrum Institute to promote the opening of the new Ash Street Workforce Training Station, a place where ex-cons can learn employable jobs skills and get low-income housing.

Judith Gilmore, community resources analyst for the Fulcrum Institute, says the station will host a silk-screen business and a greenhouse as well.

“If we’re going to provide second chances, we’ve got to do more than say ‘OK, you can wash dishes, flip burgers or spin a sign in front of my building,'” she says.

To that end, in addition to their focus on hiring convicted felons, DKB provides its employees with leadership training that would make them hirable elsewhere.

“The company has put a lot of money and resources into the continued growth of individuals who work here,” Dahl says. “We’re trying to find ways to give people opportunities to be better employees and have better lives, and not just felons, but whoever can use them.”

Gilmore says the Tuesday luncheon is filled up, but Dahl will also participate in a panel discussion Tuesday night in the City Council chambers (6 p.m.) to address how Spokane can best offer second chances to people trying to rebuild their lives after a felony conviction. Other panelists include Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Breean Beggs, Rick Eichstaedt, Clyde Haase, Ron Anderson, Mary Logan, Layne Pavey, Vance Peterson and Kari Reardon.
Dahl will speak about the benefits of hiring felons and giving second chances, but he also points out that there are certain characteristics to look for. His message isn’t “you should hire all felons,” it’s more like “you shouldn’t exclude them from the job pool.” The most successful ex-con hires, he says, are the folks who have been working to improve themselves while they’re in prison and who’ve become active members of the community.

Dahl will also speak about mental health. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and says admitting it to himself and learning how to treat it changed his life.

“People with mental illnesses are not f——- up people.” he says. “They have a personality train that can be weakness, but a lot of times it can be a strength.”

He gives an example from his own life: When he first started taking antidepressants, his entire worldview changed. He was still in prison, but he didn’t want to kill himself anymore. He was happy and had a lot of energy and ideas. It was almost like a mania, he says, which can be very constructive and creative, “you just have to be aware of it and control it.”

Dahl says he’s turned down other offers to speak since his 2013 arrest, but he’s excited to be back in Spokane — he spoke at a business roundtable here about three years ago — and is proud of the work the Fulcrum Institute is doing. He doesn’t do it for the money (he certainly doesn’t need to), rather he does it as a part of his own healing.

“I’m selfish. There’s other ways to get paid besides money,” he says. “I get paid every time I feel the warm rush from people who tell me their lives were transformed because of my inspiration.”

Affordable housing for Spokane’s poor woefully scarce

May 1, 2015

For every 100 of Spokane County’s poorest residents – those who earn 30 percent or less of the median family income – there are 12 affordable apartments for rent.

But take heart. Things are getting better.

By 2019, that number is expected to climb to 13.

These are the conclusions of a new state report that illustrates the gap between need and availability when it comes to affordable housing in Washington. The report, prepared by the Department of Commerce, concludes that 36 percent of all Washingtonians are “cost-burdened” – paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Fifteen percent spend more than half their income on housing.

The gap in Spokane County is larger than the statewide average. A separate report focusing on the city of Spokane, prepared by a Gonzaga law student, concludes that around 6,000 households which could qualify for housing vouchers or subsidized housing aren’t receiving them, in part because of significant program cuts in recent years. Countywide, this figure is 16,000.

The author of the report on the city, Matthew Cardinale, concluded that Spokane has “a significant and growing affordable housing crisis, especially for low-income households making $15,000 per year and below.”

His report proposes several policy changes, including adjusting the tax credits to encourage more low-income rentals. Cardinale started the report while working as City Councilwoman Candace Mumm’s assistant, and the project was supervised by a city attorney and law school professor. It is now being discussed by policymakers and officials at City Hall.

“Where we need more is for people who can’t afford market rate rentals, based on their income,” he said. “They don’t need a case manager. They just need a place that is affordable, that is safe and up to minimal standards.”

It’s not clear what proportion of Spokane’s “extremely low income” population is homeless and in need of more extensive services, and how many primarily need just housing. But the need for the latter was highlighted in February 2014, when the Spokane Housing Authority opened up its waiting list for housing vouchers. It had 2,000 spots on the list, and more than double that number applied.

Not for housing vouchers – to wait for housing vouchers.

Cardinale’s report tracks the gap between the number of needy Spokane residents and the programs available to help them. According to 2012 Census Bureau figures, there are 14,820 families in the city earning $15,000 or less. That includes 8,331 households whose annual income was below $10,000.

But there are just 6,364 subsidized housing units in the city, and 2,391 federal vouchers. That leaves more than 6,000 households that could be “cost-burdened,” homeless or living in substandard housing, Cardinal concludes.

Cindy Algeo of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium said that countywide, around 28,000 families earned $15,000 or less in 2012, and about 12,000 of them received subsidy or voucher help.

“What about the other 16,000?” she said. “We don’t know about the other 16,000.”

Some are homeless. Some are paying hefty proportions of their incomes for rent. What’s certain, advocates say, is that there is a big gap between the need and the help.

Cardinale’s report is intended to encourage the City Council to consider policy changes, including changing the tax credit for multifamily developments.

Right now, those credits can go to developments that set aside 20 percent of their rental units for people making 50 percent of the region’s median income. Property taxes are waived for 12 years for developments that qualify. The City Council lowered those levels a couple of years back, but Cardinale believes they’re still too high, and would like to see specific requirements for inclusion of units for people earning 30 percent of the median.

His report mistakenly concludes that the city is subsidizing rentals that are above market rate, based on a misreading of a very easily misunderstood city statute. But the error does not change his view that the city needs to refocus the tax breaks.

“We need to target 30 percent,” he said. “That’s where the need is.”

Also among his proposals: requiring affordable housing impact statements to be prepared for legislation that affects housing; and adopting inclusionary zoning rules requiring affordable units in developments of 25 units or more.

However far his proposals go, Cardinale’s 116-page report is a valuable record of the state of housing costs for the thousands and thousands of Spokane families who live far below the region’s median standard of living. He did the work in part as a requirement for a scholarship, but said it wound up taking him months to complete.

“It was kind of like having a child,” he said. “I didn’t really anticipate how much work it was going to be until it was already too late.”

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter [email protected]

Partnership Supports Health of Poor

Barry Pfundt, Barry Pfundt, attorney for the Center for Justice.

SPOKANE, Washington – Unmet legal problems adversely impact the health of approximately 1 in 6 Americans, most especially the poor, according to National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. A 2012 Spokane Regional Health District study demonstrated how Spokane’s poor have significantly reduced life expectancy. On Jan. 12, a new six-member community collaborative began providing free in-clinic legal services to address the legal needs compromising the health of low-income individuals in our community.

The partners include the Gonzaga University School of Law’s Center for Law and Justice, Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation, Washington State University Spokane, the Center for Justice, and faculty and residents at the Providence Residency Clinics. This one-year pilot program – funded by Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation, and WSU Spokane – will involve law students and medical residents working together to identify clients with health-compromising legal needs and use a team approach to address them. Faculty from GU Law and Providence Residency Clinics will supervise the students. The plan calls for 12 GU law students to work with 51 medical residents.

The students will work together to address issues such as safe housing – including unlawful evictions and landlord-tenant issues – and income maintenance concerns, such as obtaining and maintaining disability benefits. The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership identified these concerns as among the most frequent challenges not being addressed. The partners’ first-year goal is to provide assistance to at least 100 clients with medical-legal concerns.

“If a child is getting sick because he lives in substandard housing, you could give him an inhaler to treat the asthma or you could help move him to a safe house where he isn’t being exposed to mold or other hazards,” explained Center for Justice Attorney Barry Pfundt, who will be supervising the new legal clinic. “We are not just treating symptoms, we are eliminating the root cause of the illness. And that’s something a doctor can’t always do by herself.”

In 2013, Pfundt helped launch the Center for Justice’s Health & Justice Initiative to increase collaboration between health care and legal service providers for the benefit of the community.

While serving patients is the core purpose of the new Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Clinic, it will also provide unique opportunities for medical residents and law students. For law students, clinical programs provide an opportunity to work directly with clients, manage caseloads, and hone skills necessary as they begin a professional career. For medical residents, the program creates an opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary care setting that prepares them for the future. Studies have shown that the MLP model can improve health care job satisfaction by enabling health care providers to be more involved in discovering and addressing the root causes of poor health.

“The Medical-Legal Partnership gives WSU Spokane’s health sciences campus additional opportunities to invest in this community and to work, in a unique way, to improve health care in our city,” said Lisa Brown, chancellor of WSU Spokane.

“Spokane is a regional center for health services, and we also have some of our state’s highest rates of poverty,” said Pfundt. “The MLP addresses both of these facts – continuing our region’s leadership and innovation in health care, while addressing the health harming legal problems of those in need.”

Gonzaga University School of Law Center for Law and Justice

Established in 1974 as one of the first law school legal services clinics in the nation, the GU Law Center for Law and Justice is staffed by GU Law students and faculty that provide legal assistance to low-income, elderly, and nonprofit community members while providing law students with practical career training. On the web: www.law.gonzaga.edu.

Providence Health Care

In Eastern Washington, the Providence Health Care regional network consists of 11 health care organizations working together to provide quality health and human services for Inland Northwest residents. Providence Health Care is a part of the not-for-profit, faith based Providence Health & Services organization. On the web: www.phc.org.

Empire Health Foundation

An independent, nonprofit grant-making foundation that serves seven counties in Eastern Washington, Empire Health Foundation focuses on health access, education, research, and public policy. The Foundation is the largest private health foundation in the region. On the web: www.empirehealthfoundation.org

Washington State University, Spokane

Washington State University Spokane is WSU’s urban health sciences campus. Located in the heart of the University District near downtown Spokane, WSU Spokane prepares the state’s future generations of health professionals, and houses world-class research that leads to healthier people and communities. On the web: http://spokane.wsu.edu.

Center for Justice

The Center is a legal advocacy organization that helps thousands of local people with basic needs such as getting a driver’s license back or dealing with landlord abuses. The Center’s programs work to overcome barriers to employment, assist with getting families back on their feet, and keep governments accountable to those they are meant to serve. On the web: www.cforjustice.org.

For more information, contact Andrea Parrish, communications specialist at GU Law, at (509) 313-3771 or via email: [email protected].

Posted on January 8, 2015 on Gonzaga News online.