The Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) is an independent, private non-profit agency designated by the Governor as Georgia’s statewide protection and advocacy (P&A) system to protect and advocate for the human and legal rights of persons with disabilities.  The responsibility and authority of P&A systems are mandated by certain acts of Congress and their implementing regulations, i.e., the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 15041 et seq. (the DD Act), the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 10801 et seq., and the Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) Program of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794e.  These federal laws impart to P&A systems the authority to investigate allegations of potential abuse and neglect, to monitor rights, to provide training on rights, to make referrals, and to pursue legal, administrative, and other remedies on behalf of persons with disabilities.  Federal P&A authority includes broad access rights to records, to individuals, and to the places where individuals with disabilities receive services.  

The GAO currently has five attorneys on staff working on a variety of systemic legal issues statewide. The GAO has years of experience hosting and supervising law students to support us with our legal work and would welcome the opportunity to host a Harvard Law Student for the below remote pro bono project:  

The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit provides comprehensive and preventive health care services for children under age 21 who are enrolled in Medicaid.  EPSDT is key to ensuring that children and youth receive appropriate preventive, dental, mental health, and developmental, and specialty services.  The State of Georgia is not complying with federal law and is not providing appropriate EPSDT services to children and youth, resulting in children being relinquished to the foster care system, being unnecessarily institutionalized and failing to thrive.  The GAO is working with other national non-profits to investigate this failure. The pro bono student will be able to assist us with the following tasks, including but not limited to, investigating potential private firm partnerships and identifying opportunities for outreach for support, interviewing parents, drafting affidavits, drafting memorandums of law, and legal research.  

Timeframe – The project is ongoing and will likely continue for years so there’s no end date.

Hours per week/Total hours for a semester – We can accommodate any schedule.  There is a significant amount of client work surrounding a case like this and working with individuals (virtually) and supporting the team around legal issues and research will be valuable.  If students want to work a specific number of hours a week or a semester, we can accommodate assignments to reflect available time.

Previous coursework or experience – Generally, our preference is to have people who have a heart for the work.  Students who identify with the need to support people with disabilities and children would be ideal.  Certainly, some basic understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Courts would be helpful but not required.

Eligible for HLS pro bono credit.

Interested students should contact: ​Julie C. Kegley (she/her/hers), Senior Staff Attorney/Program Director, indicating your interest and availability with a cc: to Lee Mestre in OCP