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New Employee Spotlight, Kayte Bernardoni, Staff Attorney, Prairie State Legal Services

Please tell us about your professional/educational background prior to joining Prairie State Legal Services.

This is my first position as an attorney as I took the Illinois bar last summer and was admitted in Fall 2022. I attended Northern Illinois University and while I was in law school interned as a PILI intern with Prairie State for 2 summers. Because I was introduced to Prairie State early in law school and was almost certain I wanted a career in public interest, I focused on courses that I knew would be beneficial for my focus area.

As an Attorney for PSLS, what are your job responsibilities? What motivated you to work with a Medical-Legal Partnership?

As a staff attorney, my job responsibilities include legal services that range from advice and brief services to extended representation on a wide variety of legal issues, including housing, family matters, and public benefits. Specifically, I often focus on Social Security matters, Medicaid and Medicare issues, and other public benefits that impact client health. I was motivated to work with an MLP because of the benefits it can provide to clients in our service area. By integrating a collaboration between local healthcare and legal services, I believe legal issues are more quickly spotted, and resolved, by ensuring clients are informed of their legal rights and options. Part of that collaboration is educating providers, as well, on how they can assist clients and when to refer them to Prairie State for assistance.

Please tell us about how PSLS and its existing MLP are addressing community legal needs. If working on creating a new MLP, can you tell us a bit more about it?

Prairie State works closely with our community’s federally qualified health clinic and other local healthcare providers in accepting referrals for individuals experiencing civil legal issues. Our goal is to collaborate with the local healthcare system to address social determinants of health. We would like to create an MLP that places Prairie State advocates onsite at the healthcare facilities so that we can meet clients where they are. This model could result in immediate legal assistance to our clients. We continue to work to build connections with facilities in our community in order to best serve our clients.

Have you spearheaded any new or innovative initiatives since joining PSLS and its MLP? Or what is your vision for PSLS and its MLP to better address community, legal, and social needs?

I’m still relatively new to Prairie State, but have high hopes for how Prairie State can better address those issues. I think it’s vital that we try to address legal issues at the root, early in their existence, to better help clients get positive outcomes. Through education to providers, they can better understand when to refer clients to Prairie State for assistance and ensure that these legal issues are flagged early and addressed quickly. By meeting clients at their healthcare facilities, where they more often go and are familiar with their surroundings, we can assist with legal issues sooner and more effectively.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing? Is there anything else you’d like us to highlight about you or your work?

Outside of work, I enjoy being outside, watching sports, reading, and traveling. I have 2 cats, a yard I like to garden in, and spend a lot of summer weekends in St. Louis watching baseball. I have about a 2-hour commute to and from work 3 days a week so I listen to lots of podcasts, as well!


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