Worcester Telegram: “Medical-legal partnership broadens health efforts to fight for social justice”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

In many cases, unaddressed legal issues related to housing make people sick, keep them from recovering from illness, and worsen existing health conditions. A piece in Worcester MA’s Telegram.com highlights the story of a woman with asthma and diabetes struggling without heat or electricity, and the help she received from the medical-legal partnership between Community Legal Aid of Worcester and UMass Memorial Health Care.

“Medical-legal partnership broadens health efforts to fight for social justice”

by Sharon Spencer

“Ms. Pabon told her UMass Memorial Health Care primary care doctor last summer that her electricity had been cut off after she couldn’t pay an outstanding $3,000 bill racked up over two months in winter.

If it weren’t for the teamwork of a medical-legal partnership between Community Legal Aid of Worcester and UMass Memorial, Ms. Pabon might still be in the cold and dark, her fingertips numb and her respiratory health worse.

On Aug. 23 Lee Jarvis, director of inspectional services for the town, conducted a sanitary code inspection and notified the landlord, Nathan Nye of North Brookfield, of 12 violations of the sanitary code, some of which required immediate attention.

The list of violations included: missing smoke detectors; rear egress door doesn’t open properly; front entry not self-closing or locking as required; electric circuit-breaker blowing when microwave plugged in; refrigerator not operating properly (extreme condensation); toilet doesn’t flush; bath sink leaks; kitchen floor not intact; closet light fixture hanging from wires; no screens in three windows; several windows do not close properly or lock properly and there are gaps with no storm windows provided; and holes in the exterior soffit.

The Spencer Board of Health sued in Worcester Housing Court to enforce the order.

‘I wish I could do it myself,” Ms. Pabon said about her fight for decent housing. Fiercely independent, she said she was “first happy because there are people willing to help me. But I didn’t want to be in this situation in the first place.'”

Click here to read the entire article on Telegram.com’s website.