We are outraged and devastated by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Their names join too many others whose beautiful lives were cut short by the plague of systemic racism and white supremacy that allows police brutality like this to occur.
Their lives matter deeply. Black lives matter deeply. Action is the only response.
The work of medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) has always been fueled by our collective mission to use the law as a tool to help end health disparities. These murders alongside the current COVID-19 pandemic, the burdens of which are disproportionally experienced by communities of color, point to the same truth: there is nothing more central to creating long-term health equity in this country than dismantling racist systems. As we think about ways to better hold space for conversations about structural racism in our organizations, about policies that will better support Black, Indigenous, and POC team members, and about ways to support organizers on the ground, we are also thinking about the role medical-legal partnerships can collectively play in dismantling racist policies.
During the pandemic, medical-legal partnerships doubled down on their patients-to-policy work—securing statewide utility shut off protections, working on eviction moratoriums, and expanding standby guardianship laws. Now we must use our collective voices and power to target another set of policies.
Dr. Rishi Manchanda, President of HealthBegins, highlighted six evidence-based steps, endorsed by the American Public Health Association, which would help dismantle structural racism and violence. These include decriminalizing drug use and possession, and reallocating funds from policing and incarceration toward social determinants of health (SDOH) interventions. We think this list is a good place to start. We encourage all MLP organizations to read this thread, and to discuss—not only with your MLP partners, but importantly, with local activists in your community—how you can best wield your institutional power for change.
At the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, we will continue to interrogate what it means to put equity at the center of our work and this movement, to keep examining the systemic causes of inequities, and to advance the fundamental changes we need. We are committed to this long-term work, and we stand in solidarity with our partners and all who continue to work tirelessly to create a more equitable and just world.