On June 12, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership convened a meeting exploring ways that cross-sector partnership can advance the health of people in rural communities, with a special focus on how health care organizations can partner with local legal services to address patients health-harming social needs.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA-Federal Office of Rural Health Policy), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Legal Services Corporation, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, the Rural Policy Research Institute, and several additional national partner organizations.
A variety of Federally Qualified Health Centers, hospitals, and Indian Health Services (IHS) facilities that serve rural populations incorporate medical-legal partnership (MLP) services into patient care. After hearing about the rural health landscape from Dr. Anand Parekh of the Bipartisan Policy Center and Gina Capra from NACHC, health and legal leaders from Alaska, Illinois, Montana, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont shared insights about the impact of MLP services on their patients’ unique health care needs.
The discussion focused on the challenges of and opportunities for operationalizing legal services in rural health care settings, including (1) screening for social determinants of health; (2) providing legal services as a component of telehealth; (3) integrating screening and referrals in the Electronic Health Record; and (4) determining the necessary workforce. The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership is working with participants on a follow up issue brief that focuses on these four questions, and explores local and federal opportunities to advance MLP work in rural communities.