Rachel Holtzman (MPP'23) Named 2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

 May 18, 2023

Equal Justice Works has announced its 2023 class of Fellows, and Sanford's recent graduate Rachel Holtzman (MPP'23) is among them. Rachel, along with 75 other law school graduates, will collaborate with legal services organizations to address the unmet legal needs of underserved and underresourced communities across the United States. The two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship projects are designed to promote equal access to justice for all, with sponsorship from 70 law firms, corporations, private foundations, and individual donors. The 2023 class of Fellows was selected from 318 applications and includes graduates from 41 law schools who will work at 70 legal services organizations across 23 states and Washington, D.C. 

Rachel (who also received her law degree at UNC-Chapel Hill this Spring) will be hosted by New York Legal Assistance Group where she will represent medically fragile children (MFC) in New York City in appeals of adverse Medicaid determinations and wrongful denials of medically necessary care to ensure MFC can remain at home, and undertake systemic advocacy on related issues. 

Many MFC risk being placed into settings where infectious diseases, like COVID-19, more easily spread – places like emergency rooms for acute crises, as well as institutions such as nursing homes, rehab facilities, and group residences. The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment provision (EPSDT) of the federal Medicaid Act guarantees medically necessary health care for children under age 21. EPSDT protections, however, are poorly enforced which leads to unlawful denials of care, placing MFC at risk of institutionalization. Despite the significant legal needs of MFC, few legal services providers exist for MFC in NYC to avoid institutional placement. This project will address that access to justice gap, and in doing so will help keep MFC safely at home with their families.

Fellowship Plans 

During her fellowship, Rachel will provide direct representation to medically fragile low-income children through all stages of their appeals process to maintain Medicaid eligibility and access medically necessary care. She will also engage in policy advocacy and impact litigation by working with coalitions of other advocates and attorneys advancing the rights of people with Medicaid coverage. She will also facilitate community education for families of medically fragile children and lead educational training for pediatric clinicians through partnerships with local and national organizations. Finally, she will design legal training and toolkits to foster more sources of legal advocacy for these children and their families.

She is eager to get started on this important work. 

“Everyone deserves to receive care at home and in their communities, surrounded by the people they love. I am excited to work alongside families, providers and legal advocates to ensure a child’s income, disability, and race does not determine their ability to receive the care they need while staying home with their families.”

Rachel’s own chronic health condition, a voice disorder called Spasmodic Dysphonia, as well as her background as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Nepal 2015-17) fuel her commitment to ensuring all people have access to the health care, services and support they need.