Patient Engagement HIT: “How Medical-Legal Partnerships Support Community Health Projects”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cook County Health & Hospitals System and LAF of Chicago are using medical-legal partnerships to support community health projects and improve social determinants of health.

How Medical-Legal Partnerships Support Community Health Projects

By Sara Heath

“On a phone call with a legal firm two years ago, Cook County Health & Hospitals Systems (CCHHS) Director of Policy Kathy Chan knew she was on the cusp of bringing community health to the Chicago area through medical-legal partnerships.

The call with LAF of Chicago opened the doors Chan had been looking for. LAF Chicago, which offers free legal services for underserved individuals in non-criminal cases, was poised to help patients and providers overcome legal barriers in addressing the social determinants of health.

`There is an overlap between the clients that LAF serves – low income Cook County residents who have civil legal needs – as well as the patients that the Cook County Health & Hospitals System provides care for, especially if they’re insured by Medicaid. That can be a proxy for having low income or they’re uninsured,’ Chan told in an interview.

`Many of our patients have both complex healthcare needs and complex social needs, and so it was beneficial knowing that there is a model for medical legal partnerships out there that has been working in healthcare facilities,’ she added.

That conversation with LAF showed great promise in addressing the complex social needs that affect patient health, Chan stated. But the upcoming project was also shaping up to look like a jigsaw puzzle, asking Chan to put the right pieces in the right place.”

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