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If We Can't Help You...

As a Case Advocate for Disability Rights Nebraska, I work to assist and advocate for Nebraskans with significant mental and physical disabilities in protecting their legal and human rights. Whether it’s a phone call, an email, or a face-to-face meeting, each request for assistance that we receive is handled individually through our intake process.
During the intake process I talk with the person and gather basic and pertinent information about them and about their concern. The Legal Advocacy Team, including attorneys, case advocates and law clerks, meets on a weekly basis to determine if the matter meets the eligibility guidelines and what action to take. These guidelines or priorities are determined by our Board of Directors and state-wide public comment.
When the matter is outside the scope of Disability Rights Nebraska’s legal advocacy services we strive to provide information and/or referrals that could assist the individual with obtaining the information they’re looking for, or with resolving the matter.
Often, there may be another agency that is better qualified to assist the individual. As a Case Advocate, being able to provide appropriate information and referrals is an important part of helping individuals successfully resolve the matters they are experiencing. For me, this involves researching the issue and locating services and resources that could be helpful in the situation. Many times, I reach out to other organizations or professionals to gather the type of information I’m seeking.
I’ve learned that finding effective and useful referrals isn’t always possible and this can be discouraging. I find this to be the case especially when an individual is eligible to receive services and supports because of their disability, but those services are either withheld or provided so sporadically as to create additional confusion and hardship. When we see a number of complaints such as this concentrated in a specific area, we recognize that as a need for systemic change or improvement. In this way, the intake process provides data that feeds our systemic and public policy work.
My next step as a Case Advocate is to communicate with the individual about whether our organization can provide information, referrals, or legal advocacy regarding the matter. (“Legal advocacy” includes a broad range of remedies, anywhere from simply attending a meeting alongside the client, to a full-blown court case.)
Communication plays a huge role in the whole process, from intake, to determining what we or another organization can do for the individual, to the closure of the service request. Sometimes it is not even so much what we do, as how we do it: sometimes the opportunity for the person to tell their story and be heard is what a Case Advocate’s work is all about.
Karen Masterson has been a Case Advocate at Disability Rights Nebraska for over a year. Karen earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration at Southeast Community College. In her leisure time she enjoys photography, fashion, travel, and culinary adventures.