HRSA recognizes civil legal aid as “enabling service” for health centers

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) — part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — modified its funding eligibility rules to allow health centers to use federal “enabling services” funds to pay for on-site civil legal aid to help meet the primary care needs of the population and communities they serve. Click here to see the language about civil legal services (page 23).

MLPC Hawaii

Dr. Alicia Turlington (Kokua Kalihi Valley health center) and attorney Randy Compton from MLPC Hawai’i. Photo credit: Joseph Esser

Enabling services are not clinical in nature, but help facilitate access to care and can improve patients’ health; they include things like transportation, interpretation, outreach, and case management. (Enabling services are outlined in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act.) Civil legal aid helps health centers improve health and well-being by combatting health-harming social conditions health-harming legal needs such as housing, public benefits, insurance and domestic violence.

This change opens the door for the 23 million people who get health care at a health center to potentially gain access to critical civil legal aid services, and it represents a significant advancement in the long-term sustainability of medical-legal partnerships.

In the video below, Suma Nair, Director for the Office of Quality Improvement at the Bureau of Primary Care at HRSA, describes what the change means for civil legal aid and medical-legal partnership.