Medical-legal partnerships with three Cleveland hospital systems expand access to health

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Legal Aid has long been a leader in medical-legal partnerships, giving Cleveland area patients access to health and wellness by addressing the social determinants of health through no-cost legal assistance.

By meeting clients where they receive their health care, Legal Aid can address civil legal issues that impact health, such as barriers to food assistance and other public benefits, barriers to employment or health care, snowballing debt, or housing instability.

St. Vincent patient, “Suzanne Lisle,” faced a number of these barriers. After losing her job and struggling to find employment in her field in the late 2000s, she started drinking heavily to quell her disillusionment. As her dependency on alcohol grew, Suzanne became estranged from her family and friends. Eventually, her drinking led her to multiple arrests — one for driving while intoxicated.

Jennifer Kinsley, Esq.

Realizing she needed help, Suzanne entered a treatment program at St. Vincent’s Rosary Hall, where she met Legal Aid attorney Jenn Kinsley through the medical-legal partnership. Kinsley conducted a legal check-up, which uncovered multiple issues Legal Aid could address to help Suzanne stay focused on her treatment program. Legal Aid represented Suzanne in five cases, resolving issues with bankruptcy, food stamps, health care and social security benefits, as well as sealing her criminal records.

At a hearing before the judge, Kinsley presented testimony on Suzanne’s rehabilitation process and her future goals. The judge ruled in Suzanne’s favor, and within two weeks of the hearing, her convictions were removed from electronic databases. Because of the high-quality legal assistance Legal Aid could provide her through the medical-legal partnership with St. Vincent, Suzanne now has the stability and fresh start to recovery and to get back to the profession she loves.

Suzanne’s story, and the stories of the hundreds of clients served through Legal Aid’s partnerships with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, MetroHealth Hospital Systems and University Hospitals, show that a legal check-up can help establish a stronger foundation for improved physical and emotional health.

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