MLSA Adds New Health Centers to Medical Legal Partnership

Butte MT, Hardin MT  –  The Montana Healthcare Foundation recently awarded $100,000 over two years to the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) to support expansion of the Montana Health Justice Partnership.  Health centers in Butte and Hardin, Montana, will now be partners in the successful program.

The grant will fund a new part-time paralegal and increase attorney capacity to provide non-criminal legal services for qualifying patients at the Southwest Montana Community Health Center in Butte and the Bighorn Valley Health Center in Hardin.

The Montana Health Justice Partnership (MHJP) is a collaboration between and among MLSA, the Montana Primary Care Association, and six federally qualified Community Health Centers. Montana operates a unique rural version of the Medical-Legal Partnership model, active in nearly 40 states. It provides non-criminal legal assistance to qualifying low-income patients.

The Partnership integrates legal staff into partner Health Center teams to address health-harming issues that can have an impact on patient health.

According to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership, 1 in 6 people in America needs legal care to be healthy. MHJP provides a unique method of addressing health problems by concurrently solving otherwise unaddressed civil legal needs. Among those legal problems are improving substandard housing conditions, preventing evictions, appealing adverse public benefits decisions, 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: stable housing helps individuals avoid emergency room visits related to homelessness; healthy food helps people manage chronic disease and promotes child development; increased income means a person need make fewer tradeoffs between affording food, healthcare, and medications; and less violence at home means a healthier body and mind.

In its first year, MHJP reported that 94% of its patient/clients had improved health and 99% had gained increased knowledge of the legal system and their rights, as well as how to solve their legal problems. The Partnership places a high priority on working with local volunteer attorneys, health centers, and community services.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation makes strategic investments to improve the health and well-being of all Montanans. MHCF works toward a measurably healthier State through improving access to quality and affordable health services, evidence-based health education, research and analysis, improving the upstream influences on health and illnesses, and informed public policy. MHCF’s guiding principle is that everyone benefits from better health.

MLSA is a non-profit statewide law firm that empowers low-income people by providing legal information, advice, and other services free of charge. Civil legal aid from MLSA assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money a person has, and helps Montanans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

The Montana Primary Care Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to high-quality, community-based, affordable primary health care in Montana.  MPCA is the association of Montana’s community health centers and works to support and increase Montanans’ access to excellent, patient-centered health care. MPCA provides training and technical assistance to health centers and works to improve access to health care for all, especially for underserved and vulnerable populations.

For more information, contact Michelle Potts at 406-442-9830×138 or mpotts@mtlsa.org

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