State Support Featured Advocate: Emmy Buboltz

July 13, 2020

What is your role at SMRLS and why do you choose to work for legal aid?

In January 2019, I returned to work for SMRLS as the Lawyers Advancing Wellness (LAW) project staff attorney for the healthcare legal partnership with Open Door Health Center (ODHC) in Mankato. When I came across SMRLS’ LAW project job posting, and read that ODHC is a community health center including a behavioral health unit, I knew this job was for me. 

What is something unexpected you've learning since joining SMRLS?

I worked for SMRLS as a legal secretary in the late 90’s, obtained my law degree, and then worked for many years as an assistant county attorney practicing in the areas of civil commitment, child support, and paternity. It was through my work experience with civil commitments, as well as my own personal and family experience, that I gained knowledge and understanding about mental health issues and disabilities. I am so thankful for this experience because I can relate to our patients/clients I meet with at ODHC who are at the lowest point in their lives and especially when I meet with them right after a therapy session. Working as the attorney at ODHC has closed a connection for me that I never made in my previous work – that a client’s legal issues affect their health. It was very common for individuals whom I petitioned for civil commitment to be opposed to 60/90 day inpatient treatment programs because they were afraid of losing their housing and/or employment. At the time, I did not view their reason for opposition as any big deal because in my mind the individual could simply obtain different housing and move, and/or obtain a new job after discharge from treatment. By working primarily in SMRLS’ housing & economic justice unit, I now understand it is not that simple. I have been amazed at what seems to me like a tiny bit of legal help, when clients tell me it is a huge help and their gratitude and appreciation is indescribable. Several months ago while meeting with a client in my office, we were in the middle of our conversation when the client said, “You really like your job here, don’t you? I can tell you do.” I told my client that she is exactly right!
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What is something unexpected you’ve learned since joining SMRLS? 

I worked for SMRLS as a legal secretary in the late 90’s, obtained my law degree, and then worked for many years as an assistant county attorney practicing in the areas of civil commitment, child support, and paternity. It was through my work experience with civil commitments, as well as my own personal and family experience, that I gained knowledge and understanding about mental health issues and disabilities. I am so thankful for this experience because I can relate to our patients/clients I meet with at ODHC who are at the lowest point in their lives and especially when I meet with them right after a therapy session. Working as the attorney at ODHC has closed a connection for me that I never made in my previous work – that a client’s legal issues affect their health. It was very common for individuals whom I petitioned for civil commitment to be opposed to 60/90 day inpatient treatment programs because they were afraid of losing their housing and/or employment. At the time, I did not view their reason for opposition as any big deal because in my mind the individual could simply obtain different housing and move, and/or obtain a new job after discharge from treatment. By working primarily in SMRLS’ housing & economic justice unit, I now understand it is not that simple. I have been amazed at what seems to me like a tiny bit of legal help, when clients tell me it is a huge help and their gratitude and appreciation is indescribable. Several months ago while meeting with a client in my office, we were in the middle of our conversation when the client said, “You really like your job here, don’t you? I can tell you do.” I told my client that she is exactly right!

What would surprise people to learn about you? 

Did you know that “back in the day” a newborn could be discharged from the hospital without a name, and there was no time limit on which to provide a name? That is how I got my legal name, Emmy, seven days after hospital discharge. My mom preferred “Emily” and my dad preferred “Amy,” so they compromised and combined the two names. Fast forward to the year 2010 when our third child was born, and I found myself in that same situation. My husband and I never did gender reveal with any of our four children, and always had a list of boy and girl names ready. Our son was born in the morning and after going the whole day without deciding on a name, my husband called me that evening and told me “just pick a name.” The following morning we agreed on the name, the birth certificate was completed, and our announcement was emailed to family and friends. By that evening, his name was not sitting well with me. I told my husband and his response was “I cannot believe we are having this conversation, we can talk more about it in the morning.” The next morning we compromised – I got the name change and my husband got his first choice name. Hospital staff whited out and re-typed our son’s birth certificate with his new name, and a “new name” announcement was emailed. To this day, family and friends still bring this up for a good laugh. 
 
How do you recharge during the pandemic?

I rely on the power of positivity such as reading a simple quote, meditating, and laughing often. Begin each day by saying to yourself “make it a great day.” A couple of years ago, I attended an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. The course was so phenomenal that I enrolled again the following year. I highly recommend trying a MBSR course even if you do not think you need it.  

This interview originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of State Support's Justice News e-newsletter.
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