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Legal Aid Celebrates 20 years of Medical-Legal Partnerships

Posted July 13, 2023
2:30 pm

On June 13, 2023, Legal Aid supporters gathered to celebrate Founders’ Day. This special event honored 118 years of Legal Aid’s continued work to extend justice across Northeast Ohio and recognized 20 years of Legal Aid’s work to solve legal problems that affect a person’s health through Medical- Legal Partnerships.

Legal Aid created the first Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) in Ohio in 2003 by formalizing a partnership with MetroHealth. At the time, this was only the fourth MLP in the United States. Today, Medical-Legal Partnerships exist in 450 health organizations across 49 states and Washington, D.C.

Medical-Legal Partnerships are an important tool in addressing social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These social and environmental factors – like safe housing and neighborhoods; reliable transportation; access to nutritious foods; and development of literacy skills – have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life.

Through these innovative partnerships, Legal Aid works directly with healthcare providers to help clinicians, case managers, and social workers address the structural problems at the root of so many health inequities.

During the Founders’ Day event, leaders from the four major hospital systems in Northeast Ohio shared their perspectives on the impact of these partnerships in a discussion moderated by E. Harry Walker, MD (Chair, The MetroHealth System Board of Trustees).

Harlin G. Adelman, Esq. (Chief Legal Officer, University Hospitals); Shannon Fogarty Jerse, Esq. (General Counsel, Sisters of Charity Health System); Sonja Rajki, Esq. (Co-General Counsel, The MetroHealth System); and David W. Rowan, Esq. (Chief Legal Officer, Cleveland Clinic) each spoke passionately about the impact of having Legal Aid attorneys integrated into the delivery of medical care, and highlighted the positive outcomes for patients and providers that can be achieved through this holistic approach.

Independent studies have shown results echoing what the panelists described – when legal expertise and services are used to address poverty-related problems that impact a person’s health and well-being, positive outcomes follow.* For instance, people with chronic illnesses are healthier and admitted to the hospital less frequently; people are more stably housed and their utilities are less likely to be shut off; and people report less stress and experience improvements in mental health.

*Source: National Center for Medical Legal Partnership

A group of attorneys and paralegals stand outside the Legal Aid office in Cleveland.

Legal Aid has a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals in our Health & Opportunity Practice Group who focus on the Medical-Legal Partnership program. However, clients have access to the full scope of Legal Aid’s expertise in all our practice areas, including Housing, Family Law, and Economic Justice.

Originally published in Legal Aid's "Poetic Justice" newsletter, Volume 20, Issue 2 in July 2023. See full issue at this link: “Poetic Justice” Volume 20, Issue 2.

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