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The first thing you notice when you meet Lewis Myles a PIR Facilitator from FSG is that he’s passionate! Whatever the project or the topic, he’s enthusiastic about what he’s doing and especially why he’s doing it. At the centre of it all, Lewis is passionate about helping the most vulnerable in our community.
While working full-time at FSG, Lewis completed his Law degree and his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
Through his experience in the mental health sector, and his studies in law, Lewis became aware of the significant barriers that people living with mental illness experience when attempting to access legal support.
Lewis recalls a client who was facing legal action for being behind with rent. Without the appropriate support this client could have easily been evicted in to homelessness, and whilst mentally unwell been admitted to hospital.
Lewis said “It’s an example of a situation that can easily be resolved, but is exacerbated when a person’s mental health deteriorates and they do not have the strength or capacity to seek the appropriate help”.
“In this instance, we were able to prevent homelessness and hospitalization for the client. However, there are so many people in our community that require this kind of assistance and just don’t receive it,” said Lewis.
The current system struggles to support those who are marginalised or disadvantaged in any way. Community legal centers are under enormous pressure to deliver basic legal information and linking services. They are unable to represent individuals in court, and Legal Aid has strict eligibility criteria.
This often leaves individuals with no-one to turn to for guidance or support, the individuals become isolated, and often their situation worsens.
Lewis has seen this happen time and time again with individuals living with mental illness.
As a PIR Facilitator, Lewis has the opportunity to think outside the square (another of his favourite pastimes), in an attempt to address these identified gaps and barriers.
In collaboration with legal services and local firms he set about finding a solution – how do we help people with mental health issues access appropriate legal support services?
Lewis has devised an innovative concept of a ‘law triage clinic’. In this pilot, Lewis will team up with a Gold Coast law firm to deliver a new, tailored service to the PIR target group.
The pilot will have a dual focus of delivering outcomes for participants and gathering data that may inform ongoing system change initiatives.
Simply put, the clients will be able to meet on a weekly basis with Lewis and a solicitor, discuss their matter in a supportive and non confronting environment, and then be referred to the appropriate agency, whether this is legal aid, a community legal service or a law firm.
The program is a perfect marriage of Lewis’ skills and qualifications to his passion for justice and those who are the under-served portion of the community.
Lewis hopes the pilot program will commence on the Gold Coast in late 2015.
For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website: HealthyGC.com.au