Tool: Screening for MLP legal needs in health care settings

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

By The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership & The Advisory Board Company

To treat the health-harming social conditions that stand in the way of good health, health care organizations must first be able to detect these problems in a systematic way. But how do you screen for health-harming civil legal needs in a clinical setting?

The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, with pro bono support from The Advisory Board Company (ABC), reviewed 80 tools used by medical-legal partnerships across the country to screen for patients’ legal needs. We then developed a common screening tool that can be used by hospitals and health centers in a range of settings. The tool includes:

  • A customizable screening guide template and patient authorization tools;
  • A pick list of questions about specific health-harming legal issues and populations so that each medical-legal partnership can select questions related to the specific issues it addresses; and
  • An evaluation form to help staff who administer the screener measure its success.

The goal of this tool is to allow every medical-legal partnership to customize a legal needs screening tool that is specific to its setting and the population it serves, but that is based on well-tested, consistent questions about patients’ income and insurance, housing and utilities, education and employment, legal status and personal stability (the I-HELP issues where civil legal aid is most able to help improve health and well-being.)