Medical-Legal Partnerships Offer Pivotal Assistance to Those in Need

Andrew Cohen
December 7, 2016


The Medical-Legal Partnership project is a program within the East Bay Community Law Center’s Health & Welfare Program. The project, now over ten years old, partners with three hospitals in the area to provide area residents with much needed guidance on issues related to public benefits, housing, health care, and more. The MLP is unique in the way it addresses the intersection of poverty and public health.

Law students and attorneys from the program hope to shed light on the connection between poverty, housing, and poor living conditions, with mental and physical health. Many of the volunteers tell stories of clients who came to them for help with eviction defense, and ended up finding medical help for severe asthma, post-traumatic stress disorder, obesity, heart disease, and more. The MLP appeals and negotiates settlements for denied, terminated or reduced public benefits; advocates on post-entitlement benefits issues such as overpayments and continuing disability reviews; it helps prepare simple wills and advance health care directives; and advocates for clients in pre-litigation housing matters.

“This partnership has not only improved the health of patients we see through direct service, it has also educated over 500 pediatricians about the special nature of legal services and how to use lawyers as consultants,” said Gena Lewis, a Children’s Hospital staff pediatrician. “Just as we use a cardiologist for specialized help for a child’s heart condition, it’s now commonplace for a pediatrician to call a lawyer for consultation about a habitability or immigration crisis.”

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Organizations mentioned/involved: East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)