MLSA in the News

MLSA works hard to provide legal services to low income Montanans and to raise awareness about the civil legal challenges they so often face. As part of these efforts, MLSA’s work is regularly highlighted in the media. Read on to learn more about the work MLSA has been doing to increase access to civil legal aid and reduce the impact of legal problems on low income individuals.


  • How a Cincinnati Legal Partnership Reduced Hospital Admissions by 38%: New research is proving that legal care can reduce hospitalizations and improve patient health. Data analyzed on an Ohio-based medical legal partnership found that “the median predicted hospitalization rate for children in the year after referral [to a medical legal partnership program] was 37.9 percent lower if children received the legal intervention than if they did not.” MLSA’s Montana Health Justice Partnership, which was first launched in 2016, seeks to have a similar impact on the lives of our clients, with patients referred from partner community healthcare centers located across the state.


  • Missoula tenants protest evictions; MLSA Experts offer legal advice: In August, MLSA Housing Attorney Wednesday Szollosi spoke with a reporter on the resources available to help tenants if they find themselves facing an eviction. The reporter noted that protests broke out in Missoula against what residents called unfair rental and eviction practices. The threat of eviction is exacerbated by the disparity of legal representation between tenants and landlords – according to the ACLU, 90% of landlords and property management companies have attorneys in eviction cases, while only 10% of tenants do.


  • How a $3.4 million federal grant is helping Montana chip away at youth homelessness: MLSA’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project, which connects youth facing homelessness with the legal assistance they need to secure long-term housing, is part of a statewide effort to reduce youth homelessness. Youth often have multiple barriers to securing housing – including complex legal needs. Progress to address these challenges can seem slow when young people lack safe homes, as MLSA’s YHDP Coordinator Nichole Heyer explained: “Making sure that every kid has a safe, happy, healthy place to be raised? Yeah. We’re not quite there.” Yet with the help of a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, MLSA’s YHDP program and other partners are beginning to chip away at the barriers contributing to youth homelessness.


  • Legal Aid Among Services to Take On Youth Homelessness in MT: Nichole Heyer, Youth Homeless Demonstration Project Navigator, spoke with the Public News Service about how unusual and critical it is for legal aid to be included in projects which serve young people facing homelessness. She offered an example of working with a landlord, which is a tough negotiation for young people. “The power dynamics within the relationship of a landlord and a tenant are pretty skewed,” said Nichole, “just given that this person decides whether you get to remain in their rental or not.” The article highlights not only MLSA’s civil legal aid, but also several other partners working with Nichole in the statewide project.


  • Project to Train People to Represent Montanans in Tribal Courts: MLSA’s new Tribal Advocate Incubator Project wants to train lay advocates (people who are not lawyers by profession) to represent people in tribal courts across the state. The goal is to increase the amount of legal assistance available in rural reservation communities, where there are often few lawyers available to take on cases.  “We want to train local people in each tribe so that they can represent [clients] in their own community,” says MLSA Tribal Advocacy Coordinator Valerie Falls Down. She is currently working on training candidates, with the first training held in May of 2022.


  • In States Like Montana, the Prescription for Healthier Patients May Be Lawyers: Nationwide, hundreds of medical legal partnerships are working to improve patients’ health by connecting them with legal assistance, with the goal of reducing toxic stress and keeping families intact, on the premise that it will serve their health for years to come. These services became particularly important during the pandemic, when millions of people found themselves unemployed and struggling to secure benefits or pay for rent. MLSA’s medical legal partnership has been no different. Since the start of 2020, MLSA’s Montana Health Justice Partnership has helped more than 130 patients seek unemployment claims — and potentially stave off financial ruin. One woman had been waiting for unemployment assistance since applying in March 2020, and only recently received her first check in the latter half of 2021, according to MLSA Attorney Kallie Dale-Ramos. Without access to legal help through the MHJP, the woman “would have just been like, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Dale-Ramos said.