A West Virginia University student is seeking justice for imprisoned individuals who are not receiving adequate healthcare.
As part of her internship with nonprofit law firm Mountain State Justice, Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration dual-degree student Meg Haller is leading the organization’s grant writing efforts to seek funding to support a class action lawsuit about this matter.
According to the class action, “the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a matter of practice does not timely provide any medical or mental healthcare to inmates upon their entrance into West Virginia jails, including medications that were prescribed prior to admission. Inmates with diagnosed medical and mental health disorders that require immediate and ongoing treatment are denied this treatment or are required to wait extensive periods of time before the DOCR provides them with prescribed medications and adequate care.”
Mountain State Justice received a $25,000 grant from the Impact Fund in December 2019 to support these efforts.
“We are so grateful to the Impact Fund and Meg for their support of this important work to help some of the most vulnerable West Virginians,” said Jennifer Wagner, co-director of Mountain State Justice. “Inmates in jails—who haven’t even had a chance to contest their charges—are being held without basic medical care for months, threatening their health and stability. The grant will help us make sure that people get the care they need.”
Through the internship, Haller has gained valuable grant writing experience that she plans to use in her future career. She also obtained a grant from the West Virginia Bar Foundation to hire interpreters and to translate Mountain State Justice’s outreach materials into Spanish, Arabic and braille to help the organization provide services to West Virginians with different language needs.
“I have always had an interest in grant writing, but I had never had the opportunity to write one until this internship,” she said. “There is something so gratifying about obtaining funding for a project, like the language accessibility project, that would not otherwise be possible without a grant and watching it be developed based on the grant you found and wrote. It has really been an amazing experience.”
Instead of strictly working one-on-one with clients, Haller prefers to work on policy and program development that impacts a wide range of individuals. She’s gained this experience through her work with Mountain State Justice, which provides a variety of services to low-income West Virginians.
“Growing up, whenever anyone would ask me what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, I always said I wanted to help people,” Haller said. “Through my dual degree with social work and public administration as well as my internship at Mountain State Justice, I have been able to accomplish that goal. The class action is incredibly important and could help thousands of individuals across the state.”
This semester, she is working on an immigration outreach project and in collaboration with Mountain State Justice on legislative initiatives.
“Their clients typically have more than just legal needs,” Haller said. “This is where the social work interns step in. We help with case management by aiding clients in locating resources and services.”
For Haller, the dual master’s degree in social work and public administration has offered her the best of both policy and practice in preparation for her future career.
“The skills I have gained from social work allow me to work with individuals and groups through a person-centered lens, and public administration has taught me how to lead and manage others as well as an organization as a whole,” she said. “These skills combined intersect in a beautiful way that makes me look at the world through an intensely unique light.”
Haller has found a home in the nonprofit sector and hopes to run her own nonprofit one day.
“I aspire to run a nonprofit that develops programs and provides services to vulnerable populations,” Haller said. “I have worked with almost every population, and I enjoy them all, so I do not want to pinpoint my goals down to one singular population. I continue to grow and learn every day as I complete my internship, and my goals are constantly expanding and evolving.”
To learn more about the dual master’s degree in social work and public administration, visit socialwork.wvu.edu/students/msw/msw-mpa-dual-degree