First Step Legal piloting two new Health Justice Partnerships

First Step Legal piloting two new Health Justice Partnerships

In our legal work, we recognise that our clients are typically in pain, and that the intensity of any anti-social or criminal behaviour often directly correlates with the severity of their addiction, which also typically correlates with the intensity of the impact of their own, personal trauma. 

Criminal charges, family violence matters, dishonesty and driving offences, as well as drug related offences are addressed in a way that does not compromise rehabilitation efforts or exacerbate mental health problems.

First Step Legal aims to achieve court outcomes that are supportive of a client’s ongoing recovery in the community and allow sufficient time for stabilisation and progress in recovery before finalising legal matters.

The close working relationship forged between practitioners including GP’s, mental health nurses, lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, care co-ordinators and various other allied health professionals, facilitates nuanced treatment and enables sometimes competing needs be actively integrated.

Significantly, the fact that our lawyers are integrated within a team of professionals who have taken the time to understand the complexity of a client’s experience, means our clients feel safe to disclose information regarding their legal matters, and trust us with the matter so they can focus on their recovery.

First Step Legal is a unique health justice partnership. At their core, health justice partnerships are collaborations that embed legal help in healthcare services. They deliver an integrated, holistic response to the individual’s health and legal needs, with the wider goal of improving client wellbeing. The assumption is that health and legal strategies pursued in partnership will have better outcomes than standard services provided in health and legal silos.

A primary objective of health justice partnerships is to better reach individuals who are disproportionately burdened with legal need, but less likely to seek help directly from lawyers.

Over the past decade First Step Legal has developed considerable expertise in delivering legal services as part of an embedded, collaborative service model involving a wide range of health professionals.

In 2020, new core funding provided through the Community Legal Services Program provided us with capacity to expand services beyond the clients of First Step.  We initiated a scoping exercise to determine the nature and volume of unmet legal need in the local community which showed that clients of Star Health’s family violence program and Alfred Health’s St Kilda Road Community Mental Health Clinic were experiencing significant unmet demand for legal assistance.

We are now about to commence two new pilot health justice partnerships with both organisations, which we hope will contribute positively to the clients we serve and the body of developing evidence for this model of practice.

Tania Wolff
Director of Legal Services
First Step Legal

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