Legal Aid is pleased to announce the recent arrival of our newest Equal Justice Works Fellow, Stephanie Akpa, who joined the Public Benefits Unit in September. Stephanie’s project, which is sponsored by The Norflet Progress Fund Advisory Committee, focuses on expanding access to quality health care for the African-American community in the District of Columbia.
Access to quality healthcare in DC is a vital issue for African Americans, a disproportionate number of whom live in poverty or on its brink. More than one in three residents East of the Anacostia River -- a predominantly African-American community -- live in poverty, and one in six live in deep poverty, meaning they survive on half of the federal poverty level. It is unsurprising that residents of low-income communities have worse health outcomes than those in higher income areas. They are, for instance, more likely to be uninsured and less likely to have a regular doctor. Persons living in poverty are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and be hospitalized for conditions more properly treated in a primary care setting.
Although DC -- having made an extraordinary commitment to expansions in public insurance programs -- boasts one of the lowest rates of uninsured in the nation, stark racial disparities persist. This Project endeavors to address these vital concerns by working to ensure that individuals receive the health insurance benefits to which they are entitled and access quality healthcare services regardless of race or income level. Stephanie will provide education and conduct outreach with a focus on assisting the Black community in navigating the complex healthcare system and understanding their rights to public insurance benefits, including Medicaid, Medicare and the DC Health Care Alliance. She will also represent individuals who have been denied public insurance coverage or access to quality care, and she will advocate at the local level to expand health care access to all African Americans, simplify the application and benefits-selection process, and ensure that access to quality health care is expanded as DC implements the Affordable Care Act.
Before coming to Legal Aid, Stephanie worked as a litigation attorney at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, New York. While at Debevoise, Stephanie worked on criminal defense and immigration pro bono cases and served as a director of the firm’s legal clinic with the Knowledge Is Power Program Academy middle school in Bronx, New York. During law school, Stephanie was a student intern in the Workers and Immigrants Rights Advocacy Clinic and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. Stephanie received her J.D. from Yale Law School and her B.A. from the University of California, San Diego.