"Lawyers in School" program assists families in need

MARION COUNTY, W. Va. (WDTV)- "Marion county is my home county, it's the area where I live, and it's the area that I want to help,"

Richard Morris is an attorney with Legal Aid West Virginia and a new program in the area is helping him to use his profession to give back to the community.

"It began down in Charleston down at Mary C. Snow elementary school," said Morris " and when Gary Price, the superintendent of Marion County schools, got wind of it he was really anxious to bring it out here,"

That program is called Lawyers in Schools, uses grants from the Department of Justice to provide free legal help sessions in schools.

Currently the program holds clinics at East Park elementary and Monongah elementary, where they've been working since January.

"We've been in the schools for about two months, and we've already had some really great success stories,"

For two hours once a week at each school, Morris and his paralegal offer free sessions for families seeking legal information and resources.

"Listen to them and see what their legal problem is," said Morris "Because there's some things we can help with which is basically anything in the civil legal realm such as guardianship and adoptions, evictions, which tend to be the three big areas we see the most,"

These issues are largely a result of the impact the opioid crisis has had on the state

"This opioid epidemic has really done so much to impact our state, that I thought this is the way I can make the biggest impact,"

And while Morris' clinic focuses on civil issues, if they aren't equip to handle a certain family's problem they can help to connect them to the right resources.

"Anybody who comes to one of these clinics, anyone who reaches out who may not qualify for our services, they're not just going to get radio silence on the other end," "If we can't help you I'm at least going to point you in the right direction,"

And if those looking for help can't make it to the in-school clinics, they can still apply for assistance.

"So even if they can't make it to one our clinics in East Park or Monongah, they can still apply for our services and I may be able to help them,"

Over the course of the three year grant Morris hopes the program will be able to continue to expand, thy plan on beginning clinics in a third school in the area soon

"We're excited as to the future of it, making sure that we're in the schools, meeting the families where they are,"