Community Advocacy Program

About The Community Advocacy Program
Health Homes Project

Types of Cases CAP Handles:

  • Alien Emergency Medical Assistance (“AEMA”)
  • Childcare Vouchers
  • Food Stamps
  • Housing
  • Immigration cases for survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes
  • Living wills
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Ohio Works First (cash benefits)
  • Power of attorney
  • School discipline
  • Social Security benefits (ex: SSDI, SSI, overpayments, survivors benefits)
  • Special education


What is CAP? Close

CAP is a medical-legal partnership between The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and The MetroHealth System. The goal of CAP is to help low-income people overcome social or legal barriers to health.

CAP focuses on four vulnerable populations in Cuyahoga County: families, elderly, immigrants, and formerly incarcerated persons.

With the exception of the ReEntry Clinic, MetroHealth patients are referred to CAP by their MetroHealth medical providers.

Other Resources

  • CAP brochure

How does CAP’s ReEntry Clinic work? Close

The CAP ReEntry Clinic is for formerly incarcerated persons with chronic health conditions who are returning to Greater Cleveland. The ReEntry Clinic is a bridge to MetroHealth providers, services, and programs.

To make an appointment with the ReEntry Clinic, please call 216-957-1734.

At your first visit to the CAP ReEntry Clinic you will:

  • Visit a doctor
  • Get prescriptions, if needed
  • Choose a MetroHealth clinic nearest you
  • Pick your own primary care doctor for ongoing medical care
  • Get help from a paralegal with Social Security and SSI disability applications and appeals, as well as applications and appeals for other benefits such as Medicaid, Disability Financial Assistance, Ohio Works First and Food Stamps.

Other Resources

  • ReEntry Clinic Brochure

Which MetroHealth sites does CAP serve? Close

CAP attorneys are located at the following MetroHealth sites:

  • MetroHealth Medical Center: serving pediatrics department
  • Broadway Health Center: serving elderly and pediatric populations
  • Buckeye Health Center: serving elderly and pediatric populations
  • McCafferty Clinic: serving all populations

If you are a patient at one of the above locations and have a legal problem, you may ask your medical provider for a referral to CAP.

Are there other medical-legal partnerships? Close

There are over 80 medical-legal partnerships in the country. CAP was the first medical-legal partnership in Ohio.

Other Resources

How Can I Get Health Coverage? Close

Almost everyone can get health insurance now under the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare).

  • In Ohio, people with income below 138% of the federal poverty level (about $1,321 per month for an individual and about $2,708 per month for a family of 4) are eligible for free health care coverage through Medicaid.
  • You can apply for Medicaid at even if you have been denied in the past. You can also apply by phone (1-800-324-8680) or in person at your local County Department of Job and Family Services office.
  • If you do not qualify for Medicaid, you can apply for health care coverage through The Marketplace. You can apply online at or you can call 1-800-318-2596. The deadline to apply for 2014 coverage through the Marketplace is March 31, 2014.
  • If your income is 100% to 400% of federal poverty level you will be eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of health care coverage purchased through the Marketplace.
  • If you need help with health care information or applications, visit or call 1-800-648-1176.
  • If you are denied Medicaid by the county or tax credits by the Marketplace, Legal Aid may be able to help you. Call Legal Aid intake at 1-888-817-3777.

    The Health Insurance Marketplace deadline is 3/31/14 – are there exceptions? Close

    People who are not eligible for Medicaid and who do not have health insurance can enroll in The Marketplace until March 31, 2014.  Anyone who experiences a qualifying life event (moving to a new state, getting married, having a child or losing health coverage) can get a special enrollment period after March 31.  Also, consumers who tried to enroll but could not complete their application before March 31 will still be able to sign up for coverage.  Finally, special enrollment periods may be granted to people who could not complete enrollment despite trying to do so through no fault of their own.  For example, victims of domestic violence and people whose Medicaid applications were denied but whose accounts had not been transferred to the Marketplace by March 31.

    Remember, most people must have health coverage in 2014 or pay a small fee.  People eligible for Medicaid may continue to apply at  If a person is denied Medicaid by the county or tax credits by the Marketplace, they can apply for help from Legal Aid by calling 216-687-1900 or 1-888-817-3777.

    When is “Open Enrollment” for the Marketplace? Close

    All low-income Ohioans should be enrolled in free or reduced cost health care.  People between the ages of 19-64 whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level should apply for Medicaid immediately and contact Legal Aid if denied coverage.  Anyone whose income is between 100% – 400% of the federal poverty level is eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of health coverage through the Marketplace.  Please tell anyone needing health coverage through the Marketplace about the following dates and deadlines:

    • November 15, 2014. Open Enrollment begins. Apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
    • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by the 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
    • December 31, 2014. Coverage ends for 2014 plans. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
    • February 15, 2015. This is the last day you can apply for 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

    To buy Marketplace insurance outside of Open Enrollment, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a qualifying life event like marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of other health coverage.  For more information or to apply, go to

    What should I know for dealing with administrative agencies? Close

    Many different administrative agencies are responsible for important parts of our life, such as income, health insurance, and housing.  But dealing with the agencies that handle these benefits can be very difficult.  The following information will help when trying to solve a problem with an administrative agency.

    Some common administrative agencies are the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, public housing authorities, and the Office of Child Support Services.  Even though each agency has its own rules, there are some common policies.  All administrative agencies:

    • Must give written notice when benefits or services are denied, reduced or terminated and tell you the reason for that decision;
    • The notice must tell you how to “appeal” or challenge the decision if you disagree with it;
    • The notice must tell you how much time you have to request an appeal, and whether or not your benefits will continue while you appeal;
    • You have a right to appoint an authorized representative to deal with the administrative agency for you, and each agency usually has a form to fill out if you want to do so;
    • Administrative agencies all have complaint or grievance procedures you can use if you have a problem with the agency, and the procedure for each agency should be available online or at the office;
    • Most final decisions of administrative agencies can be appealed to court but only AFTER you follow the agency process first.

    When dealing with an administrative agency, you can maximize your chances for success and minimize your frustration if you:

    • Keep copies of all papers that you give the agency;
    • Keep a phone log of all calls you place to the agency, and who you speak with when you call;
    • Keep a calendar where you write down important deadlines in your appeal;
    • Attend all appointments scheduled with the agency or call at least 24 hours in advance to cancel;
    • Respond to all requests from the agency for additional information, and keep a record of what you provide and when you provided it; and
    • Give the agency your current phone number and address any time your contact information changes.

    While these tips may help you deal directly with administrative agencies, some times you might need help from a lawyer.  Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help with denials, reductions, terminations and over-payments of many public benefits.


    This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    Are there new consumer issues that can be solved by Legal Aid? Close

    Consumers facing tax foreclosure after a tax lien sale, or with certain loans and vehicle issues, should call Legal Aid to apply for assistance.  Legal Aid will evaluate and might be able to assist with problems related to:

    • student loans
    • payday loans
    • auto title loans
    • used auto purchases involving fraud, and
    • auto repossessions.

    Additionally, Legal Aid will evaluate cases involving a tax foreclosure or potential tax foreclosure where the county has sold the tax lien debt to a debt collector and the debt collector is actively collecting on the debt and/or initiating foreclosure.

    Some of these matters are new areas of service and are in addition to the numerous other types of problems Legal Aid handles.  Please call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for legal assistance.


    This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    What should I know about Health Care through Medicaid and the Marketplace? Close

    All low-income Ohioans should be enrolled in free or reduced cost health care.  People between the ages of 19-64 whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level should apply for Medicaid immediately and contact Legal Aid if denied coverage.  Ohioans can apply for Medicaid at or in person at their local Department of Job and Family Services anytime.

    Anyone whose income is between 100% – 400% of the federal poverty level is eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of health coverage through the Marketplace.  Anyone who has or needs health coverage through the Marketplace should be aware of the following dates and deadlines:

    Marketplace Deadlines:

    • November 15, 2014. Open Enrollment begins. Apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
    • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by the 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
    • December 31, 2014. Coverage ends for 2014 plans. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
    • February 15, 2015. This is the last day you can apply for 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.


    To buy Marketplace insurance outside of Open Enrollment, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a qualifying life event like marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of other health coverage.  For more information or to apply, go to


    This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    I have an administrative hearing scheduled but do not speak English. What are my rights? Close

    Federal law states that you have the right to an interpreter in an administrative hearing if you are a person with limited English proficiency (LEP). This means that you do not speak, read, write, or understand English fluently. Additionally, LEP individuals who are not involved in the administrative hearing, but who need to be there, like a parent or guardian, also have the right to an interpreter. Your family members or children should not be used instead of a qualified interpreter from the agency/organization. LEP individuals have the right to participate in administrative hearings in the same way as someone who speaks and understands English fluently.

    Examples of agencies that must provide you with an interpreter: courts; U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services; Social Security; Veterans Administration; IRS; Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services (Unemployment Compensation & welfare office); Medicaid office; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; public housing agencies; and public and charter/community schools.

    Asking for an interpreter:

    • Ask an employee of the court, agency, or organization for an interpreter.
    • If the person you ask says no: ask for a supervisor, customer service representative, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).

    What to do if you do not receive an interpreter:

    • If you still do not receive an interpreter, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
    • You can file a complaint by either sending a letter or using DOJ’s complaint form.  The form is on DOJ’s website.  You can do this in either English or your first language.
    • The complaint should explain when and how the agency did not give you an interpreter or how they did not speak to you in a language you can understand.
    • Please keep a copy of the complaint for your records.
    • The letter or form should be sent to:                             Interpreter Address Info Block





    • DOJ Website:
    • DOJ Phone: 1 – (888) 848-5306
    • DOJ will respond to you with a letter or phone call.


    This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Megan Sprecher & Volunteer Attorney Jessica Baaklini appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    How can I use the Social Security website? Close

    Social Security’s website is Like any government website, the official website of the Social Security Administration is full of helpful information. There are long lists of publications, forms and other web resources.

    There are many things that can be done through Social Security online. This includes applying for benefits, appealing decisions, finding out if you can get benefits, and estimating future benefits.

    The website is where folks can set up an account with Social Security. Up to 14 million people have established a personalized my Social Security account at  With an account, folks can see information from their home, office or library.

    The Social Security Statement is one thing that you can get on the website. It is a good planning tool. It provides people age 18 and older with important information about their wages and taxes.

    Individuals who currently receive benefits can manage their benefit payments. Folks can get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.

    You can’t apply for a card online because the Social Security office has to verify certain documents. You can, however, complete and print the application to bring to your local office.

    The Social Security website has undergone changes to make it easier to read and navigate. You can find more answers by first going to the Frequently Asked Questions tab at the very top of the home page. This tab section also allows you to convert the website to its Spanish version as well.


    This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Karla Perry and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    How does the IRS help with tax preparation, refunds, and fraud? Close

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made it easier for taxpayers to file their tax returns, as well as to monitor and protect their federal income tax accounts.  Here are some examples:

    Complete your tax return for free. If your income is below $58,000 – you can use free federal income tax preparation software.  It is available online 24/7.  The IRS states the process is safe and secure. Refunds may be directly deposited into your bank account. Visit for more details.

    Obtain tax return and income transcripts at no cost.  If you need your past income  tax or earnings records, for example, because you are applying for a mortgage or a student loan, you may obtain a copy for free. Tax return and income transcripts may be ordered online, without charge, and delivered electronically or by mail. Taxpayers also may sign and submit to the IRS Form 4506-T or call (800) 908-9946 to obtain their free tax return transcripts. IRS forms can be found at

    Monitor the status of your refund.  The most up to date information about your refund can be found using the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund?” ( Taxpayers also can learn the status of their refund by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954.  If you haven’t received your refund within 20 days of filing an electronic return or six weeks from the time of mailing your paper return, you may contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 and a representative will figure out the status of your refund.

    Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service.  If you have a problem with the IRS that you can’t resolve, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is available to help you. TAS is an independent organization within the IRS that works on behalf of taxpayers. TAS may help taxpayers who have financial difficulties, who face an immediate threat of adverse action, or who have not heard back from the IRS in response to a question. You can contact the Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) at (216) 522-7134 or send Form 911 to the LTA by fax at (855) 824-6409 or by mail to 1240 E. Ninth St., Room 423, Cleveland, Ohio 44199.

    Protect yourself from refund fraud related to identity theft. Refund fraud can cause lots of problems for taxpayers. Determine if any of the following problems have occurred:  a.  More than one tax refund was filed for you for a single tax year;

    b.   IRS records show you received more wages than you actually earned; or

    c.   Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received incorrect information concerning a change in your income.


    If so, you should immediately act in the following ways to protect yourself from identity theft:

    1.  Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490 and

    complete and submit to the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039;

    2.  Notify your local police department to make a report;

    3.  Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its Identity Theft Hotline

    at or by calling (877)438-4338; and,

    4.  Contact the three major credit bureaus:  Equifax – or

    (800) 525-6285; Experian – or (888) 397-3742; and,

    TransUnion – or (800) 680-7289 to tell them you were

    a victim of identity theft.


    Guard against tax preparer abuse. If you believe your tax return was not prepared correctly, immediately complete and submit to the IRS Form 14157. Fraud by tax preparers occurs when the preparer claims inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits and/or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients. For suspected cases of fraud, contact the Ohio Attorney General at 800-282-0515, local law enforcement agencies and an attorney who specializes in civil litigation who will counsel you on your rights and remedies.


    This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Dennis Dobos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    How can I get help with medication costs? Close

    Referrals for free or low cost medication and medical care now available by calling 2-1-1.

    In Cuyahoga County, residents can call 2-1-1 to access free or low cost medication and medical care.

    Click here for a printable flyer with more information!

    What’s Changing with Ohio Medicaid?   Close

    In 2016, a new Ohio Benefits System and new Disability Determination process will be implemented for Medicaid applicants and recipients.

    • If you are currently receiving Medicaid in the category of “Aged, Blind, or Disabled” (“ABD), your monthly income limit will increase to the same as the Social Security income limit. That means an individual can have income of $743 per month (rather than $634) and be eligible for Medicaid.
    • For individuals, the asset limit is also increased — from $1,500 to $2,000 (excluding house or car).
    • The new Ohio Benefits system will be implemented effective August 1, 2016.

    Only one disability determination process for two programs.

    • If you qualify for SSI, you no longer have to complete a separate disability determination process for Medicaid.
    • If you are eligible for SSI, you are automatically eligible for Medicaid.
    • BUT, if you are receiving Medicaid because you are low income and believe you are disabled, you must still apply separately for SSI benefits.

    Medicaid Monthly “Spenddown” is eliminated.

    • Under the new Benefit system, the Medicaid “spenddown” program is eliminated. The “spenddown” was a program that allowed you to have Medicaid coverage even if you had too much income.  In any month that you spent down your income by paying medical expenses, you obtained Medicaid eligibility.
    • If you currently have a Medicaid “spenddown” – you may automatically be enrolled in Medicaid if you are a single adult with income less than 138% FPL ($16,242 per year).
    • You may also qualify for assistance with your Medicare part B premium.
    • If your income is between 138% and 225% FPL, but you have a serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI), you are eligible for a special Medicaid waiver program.
    • In some cases, if your income exceeds the new higher limit, you will be referred to the Federal Marketplace to obtain subsidized health coverage.

    Long Term Care still covered but may require a trust.

    • Anyone needing Medicaid long term care services will be eligible for Medicaid even if they are over income, but they must place of portion of their monthly income into a trust.
    • If you receive long term care or home and community based services through a waiver, you will be contacted by the Ohio Department of Medicaid about assistance available to you for setting up a trust.


    If you currently have Medicaid and wonder if your benefits will be affected by these changes, REMEMBER:

    • Before any changes take effect, you should receive a letter and a notice from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
    • The letter will have additional information about how your coverage may be changing and what steps you need to take.
    • Make sure you open all mail from your County Department of Job and Family Services or the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
    • Do not ignore deadlines – read all notices very carefully.
    • Call the telephone number on your notice if you have any questions or call the Ohio Medicaid Consumer Hotline at (800) 324-8680.

    Want more information regarding the Medicaid changes?    

    Check out the information on the following websites or call the Medicaid Consumer Hotline at (800) 324-8680.

    Do I qualify for SSDI and SSI Social Security Benefits? Close

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two benefits based on disability or blindness:
    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While they both
    provide benefits for people who are “disabled”, SSDI and SSI differ in several ways.

    To receive SSI or SSDI benefits, a person must have a “disability”. Social Security defines disability
    as: 1) a medically-determined physical or mental impairment which has lasted, or is expected to
    last, for at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death, and 2) because of this impairment, a
    person is not able to work in any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA.) Social Security determines that
    a person is able to work in SGA, if the employment income the person receives is over a certain

    SSDI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are “disabled” and 2) are “insured” by the Social Security
    trust fund. To qualify as “insured,” a person must have worked for a certain length of time, and while
    working, paid FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) taxes. Eligibility for SSDI does not depend
    on a person’s current income or resources.

    SSI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are aged, blind or disabled (including children) and 2)
    have limited income and resources. A person is considered “aged” for SSI at the age of 65 years.

    To be eligible for SSI, a person’s current income and resources cannot be over the specific dollar
    amounts or limits set by Social Security. Some types of income and resources are not counted, such
    as food stamps, home energy assistance, tax refunds, or tuition scholarships, among others.

    In some cases, a child may qualify for SSI. Social Security defines a “child” as a person who:
    1) is either under age 18 or under age 22 and regularly attends school, and 2) is not married or
    head of a household. For a child to be eligible to receive SSI benefits: 1) a child must be either
    disabled or blind, and 2) a portion of the income and resources of the child’s parents cannot be
    over a certain amount or limit.

    Once a person qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important to read notices from SSA and
    follow the program rules; otherwise, those benefits could be terminated. If benefits are terminated by
    SSA, the recipient can appeal the decision by following the directions on the notice or calling Legal
    Aid to apply for help at 1.888.817.3777.

    This article was written by Karen Seawall and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    What rights do college students with disabilities have? Close

    College students with a disability have certain rights as they
    continue with their education after high school. It is important to
    know that if you had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in
    high school, your IEP does not go with you to college. Instead of
    providing special education to students with disabilities, colleges
    must make sure that students with disabilities are treated fairly.

    Colleges cannot discriminate against students with disabilities.
    There are federal and state laws that stop schools from doing
    this. These laws protect students with disabilities from being
    denied admission to a school because of a disability or being
    discriminated against by the school they attend.

    Once a student with a disability starts college, these schools must
    provide academic accommodations and support based on the
    student’s needs. Some examples of this help may include books on
    tape, note takers, readers, extra time for tests, or special computer
    tools. However, these schools do not have to provide students with
    personal equipment such as wheelchairs.

    The steps a student must take to get these services depends on
    the school. First, a student must tell the school about the disability
    if requesting services. Contact the school’s office for students with
    disabilities, or ask an adviser where to start.

    Students who experience discrimination because of a disability
    should contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil
    Rights. The phone number in Ohio is 216-522-4970. Complaints
    can also be filled out online at:

    This article was written by Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    How can I get my child extra support in school? Close

    A pre-school, elementary or high school student with a disability may need extra support in school. Some disabilities keep students from participating in school in the same way as other students, like deafness or being unable to walk. Other disabilities, like dyslexia or low IQ, may keep a child from learning in the same way as other students. Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiance Disorder may keep a child from controlling their behaviors. Children with disruptive behaviors may miss a lot of class time or have trouble paying attention in class.

    If a student can learn the same way as other students, but is not succeeding in school, that student may need accommodations.  Examples of accommodations are a wheelchair ramp, a sign language interpreter, and extra breaks for a student with ADHD. Accommodations should be recorded in a 504 Plan.

    If a student is not learning in school, the school should try interventions. Interventions may include tutoring or a special reading group. If interventions do not help, a student with a disability may need an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP records the plan for helping a child meet goals specific to that student. Examples of IEP goals are learning math facts, improving speech skills, and developing coping skills.

    Both a 504 Plan and IEP are legal documents created by a team at the school that must include the parent. If a school does not follow a 504 Plan or IEP, a parent can file a complaint.

    A parent can request that a 504 Plan or IEP be created for a child by writing a letter to the school. Date the letter and state that the child has a disability which contributes to struggles in school. Give the letter to the school district office but be sure to keep an additional copy of the letter. If the school does not respond or denies the request, contact the Ohio Department of Education at 1-877-644-6338. For more information about requesting special education, see

    This article was written by Danielle Gadomski Littleton and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

    What Resources are there for Lead Poisoning? Close

    Lead poisoning in children is a serious condition with long term negative consequences.  The following resources may help families in northeast Ohio trying to cope with lead poisoning:

    For medical advice for a child with an elevated blood level, contact:

    • Your child’s pediatrician
    • MetroHealth Pediatric Lead Clinic
      Referral by pediatrician or call (216) 778-2222

    For education resources and support, contact:

    For information on lead testing of your home, contact:

    • If you live in the city of Cleveland:

    City of Cleveland Lead Safe: (216) 664-2175

    Lead Hazard Control Program: 216.651.0077

    • If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:

    Cuyahoga County Board of Health: (216) 201-2000

    • If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:

    Ohio Healthy Homes  1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)

    Lake County

    For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:




    What do I need to know about lead poisoning? Close

    Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop.

    Who is at risk?
    Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there.1

    Where is this problem?
    Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).

    What are the signs?
    Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.

    When do I need to address this?
    Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.

    What can you do if you’re concerned?
    In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high,
    try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.

    My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
    • Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
    • Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
    • Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
    • Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
    • Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.

    1 For a list of high risk zip codes, see :—children/2014/Updated-Brochures-Forms/BloodLeadTestingRequirementsandZipCodes.pdf?la=en

    For information about resources to address lead poisoning, visit

    By Lauren Roberts

    Problem related to money, housing, health, work or family? Close

    Has your landlord threatened to evict you? Is your criminal record making it hard to get a job? Does the IRS claim you owe taxes? Have your food stamps, child care voucher or Medicaid been terminated? Does your debt keep you from putting utilities in your name? Free legal help is available to solve problems like these.

    The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland provides free civil (not criminal) legal services to low-income people in Cuyahoga and surrounding counties. Attorneys represent clients, provide advice, explain forms and give legal information to eligible clients on problems related to money, housing, employment, health, and family. Unfortunately, Legal Aid cannot help everyone who needs assistance due to our limited resources.

    You may apply for help by calling 1-888-817-3777 or walking-in to an office Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (The Cleveland office is located at 1223 West 6th Street, 2nd Floor.) Help is also available at neighborhood Brief Advice Clinics where attorneys answer questions and provide advice. When attending a Brief Advice Clinic, be sure to bring all papers related to your problem. Also, arrive early to the clinic as clients are seen on a first come, first served basis. The schedule and location for the clinics are at

    Legal assistance is also available to local groups and organizations helping low-income neighborhoods. Residents in Central, Kinsman, Hough, and Broadway/Slavic Village who are working together on issues impacting the vitality of their community are invited to contact Legal Aid to learn more about the Community Revitalization Project. Through this project, Legal Aid can provide legal education and advice, representation and advocacy in partnership with community groups. Call Legal Aid’s main line at 1-216-861-5500 and ask to speak with a member of the Community Engagement Group regarding questions and requests.

    What can be done about illegal dumping and other environmental problems? Close

    Illegal dumping of waste is one example of an environmental violation. Other violations may include burning garbage, foul smelling drinking water, and the demolition of buildings containing asbestos. Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing laws that protect Ohio’s environment from pollution and maintain healthy air, water, and surroundings. Other problems that relate to maintaining a healthy environment may be the responsibility of other agencies. For example, mold and lead contamination is managed by the health department. To learn about Ohio’s EPA, visit

    When residents are concerned about a problem such as illegal dumping or another environmental hazard, they can file a complaint with the Ohio EPA district office. The district office helps citizens report alleged violations and then investigates the complaint. Complaints can be filed by calling a hotline (Northeast District 1-800-686-6330) or sending an email to Complaints may be made anonymously. Alternatively, a person can make a verified complaint to the EPA which requires a written, sworn statement as to the facts about the violation and identification of the specific law, rule, or order that is being violated.

    A person filing a complaint should provide as much detail as possible about the situation. Following the complaint, the EPA will investigate or direct the complaint to another appropriate agency. Depending on the results of the investigation, enforcement action may follow or the matter may be referred to the Attorney General to pursue legal action.

    Groups of neighbors or residents who have common concerns about current environmental violations in their community may contact Legal Aid to find out if additional help is available on their issue. When calling Legal Aid, ask to speak with a member of the Community Engagement Group.

    This article was written by Cinnamon Williams and Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!


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