Health care providers know that the care and treatment provided by doctors and nurses accounts for only 20% of a person’s overall health. Social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – are the greatest factors in determining how healthy a person is. Medical-legal partnerships integrate the unique expertise of lawyers into health care settings to help clinicians, case managers, and social workers address structural problems at the root of so many health inequities.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland created the first medical-legal partnership in Ohio and only the 4th in the United States when we formalized our program with MetroHealth in 2003. Today, medical-legal partnerships exist in 450 health organizations across 49 states and Washington DC.
To date, Legal Aid has established medical-legal partnerships with four Northeast Ohio health systems to address problems such as housing conditions, educational barriers, lack of nutritional food, and other poverty-related problems that impact a person’s health and well-being. Legal Aid attorneys train health care providers on how to recognize civil legal issues that interfere with patient health. Providers can then refer patients to Legal Aid through a streamlined system.
Our medical-legal partnership at MetroHealth, called the Community Advocacy Program, provides access to attorney services in five locations: Main Campus Pediatrics, Old Brooklyn Health Center (for patients of the Medicare Collaborative Care Partners across the MetroHealth system), Ohio City Health Center, Buckeye Health Center, and Broadway Health Center.
The medical-legal partnership at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center (since 2017) provides legal services through one attorney and one paralegal to patients in the hospital, those receiving out-patient treatment, and those staying at Joseph’s Home. This is also one of the first medical-legal partnerships that includes a psychiatric emergency department.
The medical-legal partnership at University Hospitals (since 2018) provides service to patients at the UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Ahuja Center for Women & Children, located in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood, at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 59th Street.
At Cleveland Clinic (since 2022) two attorneys and one paralegal are based in pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic main campus.