CBA Sept.-Oct. 2020
PRO BONOWEEK 2020 – EXTRAORDINARY TIMES CALL FOR EXTRAORDINARY COMMITMENT
MLPs in Illinois Illinois is home to a robust MLP network, run by a wide range of legal service provid- ers with an equally wide range of health care entities. But even in this rich environ- ment, there is room for growth, specifically to address race equity challenges. And the MLP model can be expanded beyond traditional hospitals to other partners, specifically those who serve large numbers of clients of color. As just one example, the Legal Council for Health Justice’s Homeless Outreach Project partners with shelters, drop-in centers, and mobile health teams to provide legal care for people with severe mental ill- ness living outdoors, in shelters, or in other unstable situations. Reflecting the health disparities in Chicago, people without housing are disproportionately Black and 33% of people without shelter are living with severe mental illness. Accessing health care, housing, and public benefits were already complex networks to negotiate, doubly so during Covid-19. Legal advo- cates bridge that gap and more. They work with partner staff to help unhoused clients secure Medicaid, schedule and get to a first
appointment, and orient the client to the services that are part of their insurance plan such as access to medication. They work of building knowledge of resources and growing trust with a health care provider, in turn, increases an individual’s ability to recover and return to work, or to qualify for disability benefits. The legal work is coordinated with the work of the partner organization: for example, as the client gets income, the non-legal partner helps the client obtain and maintain safe and healthy housing. Expanding partnerships beyond medical providers is just one of the ways in which this proven model can grow in our fight for health equity. MLPs & Pro Bono There is space for more partners in MLPs, in all areas of expertise. The legal service organizations that staffMLPs welcome pro bono assistance in many forms, such as: • Researching discrete legal issues, • Conducting intake, • Partnering on impact litigation, or • Outsourcing aspects of a client’s problem, such as drafting a will or negotiating with a debt collector.
Recently, an Illinois MLP legal team worked with a grandmother to obtain special education services for her medically complex granddaughter. But when she inherited a house, it was pro bono assis- tance that turned a tax-lien-encumbered source of family stress into money to purchase a new house, providing a safe and healthy home for them all and an opportunity to secure inter-generational wealth for the first time. Changes like this are real first steps to addressing structural racism and the barriers to health and well- being it perpetrates. For more information on the model, and how to get involved, visit MLP Illinois (https://www.mlpillinois.org/) and the National Center for Medical Legal Part- nerships (https://medical-legalpartnership. org/). Together, we can use the power of the law to make health equity a reality.
Kate Miller is a Senior Legal Advocate at the Legal Council for Health Justice. Sarah Hess is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Council for Health Justice.
CBA RECORD 27
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