By: Daniel Atkins et al. Published by: Journal of Legal Medicine. Published on March 26, 2014
The abstract reads: “By resolving a wide range of civil legal needs, civil legal aid attorneys have a tremendous impact on the lives of people who are living in poverty. Through improving housing conditions, preserving public benefits, and restoring utilities, civil legal aid attorneys provide assistance critical to the health and well-being of vulnerable and at-risk populations. Nevertheless, because of an inadequate level of funding, needs overwhelm resources. While civil legal aid attorneys represented more than 2 million poor people in 2011, 80% of the civil legal needs of people who are living poverty were unmet. The value of civil legal aid services historically has been confined to theories of social justice; however, public health evidence strongly suggests that civil legal aid services positively can impact individual and population health. The medical-legal partnership (MLP) model provides civil legal aid attorneys a new framework to measure and communicate the true value of their work.
This article: (1) presents the public health evidence demonstrating how resolving unmet legal needs improves health; (2) describes the MLP model; and (3) reframes the value of civil legal aid services by focusing on the work of one MLP partnering with a social services agency serving very low-income, pregnant women, and parents with young children.