We’re helping to build an integrated health care system that better addresses health-harming social needs by leveraging legal services and expertise to advance individual and population health.
Studies show that when legal services and expertise are used to address social needs, people are admitted to the hospital less frequently, are more likely to take their medications as prescribed, and are reporting lower levels of stress.
Annie is a 2-year-old girl living with sickle cell anemia and asthma. Annie’s pulmonologist provides amazing care, but last year, Annie appeared in the Emergency Department for respiratory distress every few weeks. Annie’s mother did everything she could for her child, and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t getting better. To make matters worse, the Emergency Department bills kept piling up. Having reached the limits of their medical toolbox, the pulmonologist contacted an attorney at the Medical-Legal Partnership. The attorney visited Annie’s apartment and found moldy carpet, inadequate air conditioning, and exposed insulation. Although these issues violated her landlord’s agreement to provide apartment maintenance, Annie’s mother could not get her landlord to help. Annie’s attorney sued the landlord for the contract violation, getting the apartment repaired and cleaned. Since then, Annie’s conditions have stopped flaring up regularly, and she no longer needs to visit the Emergency Department. Free legal representation empowered a healthcare team, saved a mother from going under, and kept a baby happy.
Desmond is a 17-year-old boy with cerebral palsy living with his father. Because his parents are divorced, his father handles his doctor’s appointments and therapies. Recently, Desmond’s father noticed his son was coming back from his visits at his mother’s house in distress. Although he updated her on Desmond’s medical needs, he realized she was not being careful enough when caring for Desmond. Desmond’s doctor heard about these home-life problems and wanted to help. The doctor reached out to the Medical-Legal Partnership and explained how the child’s disability required diligent care from his father and mother. An attorney collaborated with the doctor to document the specific things his mother must do when taking care of Desmond, such as tracheal tube maintenance. The attorney then represented Desmond’s father in court to create a custody and visitation plan which forced the mother to follow the doctor’s recommendations. Thanks to the case, Desmond’s mother and father now work more closely together to keep him healthy.