MLSA to Provide Civil Legal Aid to Patients Through Montana Health Justice Partnership

Montana Legal Services Association has been funded as a partner of the Montana Health Justice Partnership, a pilot program to address the health-harming civil legal needs of patients whose health solutions lay outside the boundaries of medicine.

Medical legal scales of justiceThe Montana Health Justice Partnership pilot program includes MLSA, the Montana Primary Care Association, Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre, Northwest Community Health Center in Libby, Cascade Community Health Care Center in Great Falls, and the Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Council in Billings. Funding from the Montana Health Care Foundation, in combination with funding from all partners, will allow MLSA to hire a full time attorney to train health care teams to screen for health-harming legal needs and treat those needs by providing legal services to positively impact a client’s health. Expected outcomes include increased access to civil legal services and increased access to health services. 

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According to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership, 1 in 6 people in this nation need legal care to be healthy. People are wrongfully denied nutritional supports and educational services, and resources necessary to meet daily needs. People who live in housing with mold or rodents are in a physical environment that makes them sick. Seniors are denied benefits, such as access to supportive services or long term care, which prevents them from getting the health care they need. These all constitute health-harming legal needs.

The Montana Health Justice Partnership presents a unique method of addressing health problems because it also solves unaddressed civil legal needs at the same time: improving substandard housing conditions, preventing evictions, securing disability and veterans’ benefits, reducing unfair debt, and securing restraining orders for survivors of domestic violence. Each of these civil legal actions impacts a patient’s health care: stable housing helps individuals avoid costly emergency room visits related to homelessness; healthy food helps people manage chronic disease and helps children develop; increased income means a person need make fewer tradeoffs between affording food and healthcare and medications; and less violence at home means less need for costly emergency health care services and less stress.

View the Montana Primary Care Association press release here.

More Information About Medical-Legal Partnerships:

NYTimes: “When Poverty Makes You Sick, a Lawyer Can Be the Cure”

National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

 

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