The STORIES Project Team

  • Team Members

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    Miriam Harmatz

    Director of Advocacy and Founder

    Miriam, one of Florida’s leading Medicaid advocates, is a former senior health law attorney at Florida Legal Services and adjunct professor in the Health Law Clinic at Florida International University College of Law. As a young child with a health issue, Miriam learned that everyone must have insurance and that healthcare is a human right. She wrote her senior college thesis on why Congress failed to pass a national health insurance bill in 1974, and as a legal services attorney for 30 years she focused on ensuring access to healthcare for her clients.

    Miriam has been lead counsel on multiple federal court cases resulting in statewide relief for Medicaid beneficiaries. These successful outcomes, including federal court cases of first impression and with national import, are the result of highly collaborative work with national experts, Florida legal aid lawyers and pro bono attorneys. On a local level, Miriam led collaborative efforts that improved access and transparency at Miami-Dade County’s publicly funded hospital. This work includes administrative complaints successfully challenging outpatient and inpatient admission deposit policies, discrimination against foreign-born county residents, and violations of consumer protections provided under the ACA, the first complaint of its kind in the nation.


    Because Florida has not yet expanded Medicaid under the ACA, Miriam has focused on outreach and education detailing the tremendous human and economic benefits of extending coverage and the adverse impacts in failing to do so. And since the 2016 election, she has been part of the massive advocacy effort devoted to defending the ACA and Medicaid.


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    Alison Yager

    Executive Director

    Alison is an attorney with over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and government sectors advocating on behalf of women, children and marginalized individuals. She comes to Miami from New York, where she served most recently as the Director of Policy Initiatives for Maternal, Infant, and Reproductive Health at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her work included collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to identify new policy and program initiatives, conducting analyses and developing policy briefs to support the generation of policy initiatives, and advocating for or against enactment of policies at all levels of government.

    After graduating from UCLA School of Law’s Program in Public Interest Law and Policy in 2001, Ms. Yager was awarded an Equal Justice Works fellowship to provide legal services to young people at The Door's Legal Service Center in Manhattan, and subsequently worked as a Staff Attorney serving young people experiencing intimate partner violence at Break the Cycle- New York (now Day One). From 2006 to 2014, Alison worked at HIV Law Project in New York, first as a Staff Attorney and then as Supervising Attorney for HIV Policy. She began her career as a Community Organizer for the Children’s Defense Fund-NY.


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    Blanca Mesa

    Client Outreach and Communications Consultant

    Blanca is an attorney, journalist, and communication expert. Blanca, a former Legal Services of Greater Miami public benefits attorney, also worked as the Communications Director for the Mayor of Miami-Dade County.


    After the ACA was implemented, she worked as a licensed federal navigator for the ACA health marketplace. She recently helped develop and manage a story bank of over 150 Floridians in the coverage gap willing to speak with the press.

    ​Blanca has a strong history of public service and community involvement. In 2016, she was named “Best Citizen” by Miami New Times and in 2017, Miami Today newspaper honored her as “Best of Miami” for her community environmental work.


    Blanca works on documenting the stories of individual low-income Floridians willing to engage on outreach and education regarding Medicaid, as well as other safety net programs that impact the social determinants of health.


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    Jay Jefferson

    Multimedia Specialist and STORIES Webmaster

    Jay has over 20 years of experience in multimedia production and communication technologies. Having collaborated on various technology projects with numerous colleges and universities throughout New York State as well as with the New York State Department of Education, he has served in numerous roles: Distance Learning Project Manager, Production Manager, Content Manager, Technology Coordinator, Training Facilitator and Education Lobbyist.


    Jay is deeply committed to FHJP’s mission of supporting health care as a human right and the belief that America cannot have health justice without racial justice or racial justice without heath justice.
    Since moving to Florida, Jay has worked with a variety of clients as an independent consultant in multimedia production and communication technologies. Additionally, he has continued his commitment to education by having served on the Executive Boards and Committees of several non-profit entities throughout Florida and Miami-Dade County: Florida State Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Miami-Dade County Council PTA, African American Children with Learning Disabilities, Coconut Grove Drug Free Community Coalition, and Coconut Grove Ministerial Alliance. Jay’s work in the community earned him the "PTA President of the Year Award" from the Miami-Dade County Council PTA and Miami-Dade County Public School’s "Family of the Year Award".
    Jay is an alum of New York University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management, a Master of Science in Tourism and Travel Management and obtained a Professional Certificate in Strategic Marketing. During his undergraduate and graduate studies, he was honored the "President’s Service Award" for Student Leadership and the "Founders’ Academic Scholar Award".


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    Moraly Arroyo

    Development Coordinator & Executive Assistant

    Moraly Arroyo, has Fortune 100 New York City experience and held senior leadership positions in finance, marketing and operations in the Media, Advertising, Hospitality and Education industries. She brings her expertise in partnership development, fundraising, management and community outreach to Florida Health Justice Project.


    As a Latina who came of age in the South Bronx community of New York City and attended public schools, she witnessed first-hand the pivotal role education and health care play in social justice.


    Committed to helping bring a voice to Miami’s underserved communities, she has been actively engaged in non-partisan voter, health and education advocacy. She has led community improvement campaigns and currently serves on the Miami-Dade County Commission on Disability Issues.


    Moraly earned her Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Hospitality Industry Studies and Professional Certificate in Strategic Integrated Marketing Communications from New York University. She has received several honors including El Diario La Prensa’s Mujeres Destacadas, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Family of the Year and New York University’s President’s Award for Leadership and Service.


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  • Student Law Clerks


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    Melissa Lipnick

    Law Clerk

    Melissa is a rising third-year law student at the University of Miami School of Law. Her enthusiasm for the work done by FHJP stems from her interest in lessening health disparities and her belief that healthcare is a human right. She is passionate about finding ways to overcome the barriers related to accessing healthcare, particularly those access challenges faced by immigrants and those of a lower socio-economic status.


    During her second year of law school, Melissa was a legal intern at the Health Rights Clinic, a clinic that focused on improving access to healthcare for low-income individuals. This was achieved through helping clients gain access to public benefits such as social security or attain legal immigration status. Prior to law school, Melissa served as AmeriCorps member with City Year Miami, an organization that focused on educational interventions to stop the school to prison pipeline. Melissa attended the University of Miami for Undergrad and obtained a BS in Public Health.


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    University of Miami School of Law Health Rights Clinic

    The Health Rights Clinic is a medical legal partnership operated in collaboration with the UM Miller School of Medicine. Students participating in the Health Rights Clinic represent multiple clients in different legal matters related to health. Under the guidance of Director JoNel Newman and Associate Director Melissa Swain, clinic students spend the academic year representing low income patients of the Veteran's Administration, South Florida Aids Network, Jackson Hospital and other medical partners.


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