Sometimes, the best prescription for an asthma diagnosis—or behavioral outbursts at school—is not medicine. It’s an attorney. That’s why we’re excited to move in to our brand-new office at THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus), located in Ward 8.
This month marks the completed expansion of THEARC and the Children’s National clinic located in the complex—and the expansion of our medical-legal partnership to this clinic.
Through our partnerships, Children’s Law Center (CLC) attorneys are embedded in health clinics across the city. They work side-by-side with pediatricians to make sure that children are healthy, addressing the non-medical barriers to children’s health, such as poor housing conditions that exacerbate asthma.
As part of this work, our lawyers partner closely with the IMPACT DC (Improving Pediatric Asthma Care in the District of Columbia) team—an award-winning pediatric asthma program. This expanded clinic empowers us to reach even more DC children as part of that program.
Caitlin Russi is the first CLC attorney embedded in the expanded southeast clinic.
Partnering with Pediatricians
Starting this month, Caitlin has begun spending two days of each week working at THEARC.
There, she shares a suite with asthma educators, is available to consult with doctors and can meet with patients right in the doctor’s office. Her work focuses on the intersection of healthcare and legal advocacy.
Recently, Caitlin worked with a family whose electricity was cut off. This was more than an inconvenience. It was a life-threatening situation, because one of their children had a severe case of asthma, and they needed electricity to operate his nebulizer. During a check-up, the pediatrician learned of the problem. Because she was on-site, Caitlin was able to begin legal advocacy for the family immediately.
“The bulk of my work relates to housing cases, but I also work with education and special education,” Caitlin shares.
To help another child get her asthma under control, Caitlin, advocated for rodent extermination at a school, since the presence of the mice was causing her asthma attacks. Her priority is always making sure that children are safe at home and at school, healthy and getting the education they deserve.
“One of the aspects that I value about working in a place like THEARC is really developing relationships with my clients,” Caitlin said. “I like providing the holistic services that the medical-legal partnership encompasses.”
These holistic services include teaching clients their rights. Caitlin shares that her clients are some of the strongest self-advocates she knows. Once families know their legal rights—and how to document their own self-advocacy—they are even more powerful as they fight for their children.
For Caitlin, being able to partner with families—and to work together to make sure each child is safe, healthy and learning—is just what the doctor ordered.