Improving the Delivery of Legal Services Through Medical-Legal Partnerships

Medical-legal partnerships are the focus of the latest episode of “Talk Justice,” a podcast produced by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).

LSC Emerging Leaders Council member Jason Tashea hosts a conversation with Bethany Hamilton, co-director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership; Dr. Dawn Haut, CEO at Eskenazi Health Center in Indiana; and Rakuya Trice, deputy director of Indiana Legal Services and the organization’s director of medical-legal partnerships.

Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) combine legal and medical services at a single site in order to address the civil legal problems impeding patients’ recovery. Lawyers stationed in these healthcare settings and partnering with medical providers are more easily able to reach patients who might not otherwise connect with legal services providers. Addressing patients’ legal issues can improve their health outcomes, reducing trips to the hospital and healthcare costs.

Hamilton launches the conversation by noting the significant increase in MLPs across the country.  

“We’re happy to see the amount of growth that we’re seeing right now, especially in response to the pandemic,” she says. “Folks [are] looking at health inequities and social justice issues that very well could be addressed if we bring these titans across professions together to address in various healthcare settings what folks really need to be able to get healthy.”

The participants, representing different areas of MLPs, highlight how these partnerships help in filling in gaps of care. They note how significantly outside factors, including legal issues, impact the ability of people to get and stay well. 

“I can write prescriptions all day and it means nothing, if it doesn’t impact the health of people,” Dr. Haut explains. “What actually impacts health is whether they have food and stable housing.”

Doctors have long been conscious of how these outside factors affect patients’ health. But MLPs have resulted in lasting partnerships that allow healthcare and legal professionals to address these factors directly. 

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