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Raising the Bar for Health

8/1/2010

Not every illness has a medical cause—or solution. An asthmatic child will never breathe symptom-free if he or she returns from the doctor’s office to a mold-infested apartment. Nor can a family forced to choose between food and heat in the winter months be treated with a prescription or a vaccination to solve their health issues.

Thanks to the Medical-Legal Partnership, HealthNet’s health care providers can now turn to new specialists to help keep these families healthy and safe – attorneys specializing in family law.

The goal of the partnership is to help address medical issues that would be easier to solve if a legal problem was also resolved. These issues can range from housing and financial needs to eligibility for benefits, child-support coverage, or guardianship issues. The program brings various partners to the table – doctors, lawyers, caseworkers, and social workers – to determine the best practices to address a patient’s issues.

The Indianapolis partnership began in 2008 with the support of the Indiana Health Advocacy Coalition. Attorneys at Faegre Baker Daniels, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Indiana Legal Services and Indianapolis Legal Aid Society supported the partnership early on and continue to do so.

HealthNet patients are helped by the partnership by first meeting with their health care provider about a health issue. The provider arranges for the patient to talk with the health center’s social worker. The social worker assesses the need, then connects the patient with HealthNet’s attorney liason at Indiana Legal Services for a free phone consultation. If an in-person visit is needed, that can be arranged as well.

The legal expertise comes from both legal aid professionals and pro bono departments at law firms. Many services are already available in the community, but not traditionally viewed as health-related, such as help with eviction notices or problems with landlords who don’t address unhealthy living conditions. The MLP also can assist in appealing Medicaid, Social Security and disability benefit denials when appropriate.

For more information about HealthNet’s MLP program, contact the social worker at the health center nearest you or email info@indyhealthnet.org.