Thursday, February 12, 2015

What I Learned About Being a Doctor from Lawyers

By Megan Sandel, MD, MPH*

Not too long ago, a patient’s Mom called me and said, “Megan, I need to talk to the lawyer again.” 

A year earlier, our hospital’s medical-legal partnership helped my young patient get special education services; he was thriving in school. But now Mom was calling me because she had received a notice of eviction from her apartment. She had a housing voucher, but the building had not passed inspection, so she had a few months to find a new apartment or lose her voucher. When she called me, she was running out of time and on the verge of becoming homeless. I ran over to our MLP attorney’s office, and she provided me with the magic words only a lawyer would know to write a letter to the housing authority to get an extension based on Mom’s disability. Fifteen minutes later, I sent the letter. All of us together – Mom, me and the attorney – had prevented the family from becoming homeless.

I love this story. I love it because Mom felt empowered to advocate for herself. I love it because her previous experience had taught her that staying housed was part of health care. And I love it because it illustrates the fact that in many cases, I cannot treat all of my patients’ health needs without help.

I often say I don’t know how to practice medicine without having a lawyer as part of the health care team. This is more than a catch phrase – it is truly an integrated part of how I treat patients. I have thought a lot about what kind of “care” is needed to help make my patients healthy, and screening for hunger and housing problems is critical. But if I’m going to ask those questions, I need to be able to treat what I find. And so often I need to be ready with legal care – to appeal benefits for food or enforce housing codes – as part of the treatment plan. The truth is that I’ve “grown up” with medical-legal partnership since residency; I have always had a lawyer down the hall, and it’s what I wish for other health care professionals.

But this goes beyond my professional identity. I have seen others in the medical profession define their careers around connecting legal care and health care. More than once, a medical student or resident has emailed me after leaving our training program at Boston Medical Center and said, “I didn’t know how good I had it working with lawyers.” They have then gone on to start medical-legal partnerships at their new institutions because they have a new “standard of care,” and it includes making sure lawyers are integrated into the care team.

And this professional transformation reaches beyond how we think about care for individual patients. Doctors Andy Beck, Melissa Klein and Rob Kahn at Cincinatti Children's Hospital Medical Center among others regularly meet with their medical-legal partnership team to redefine how they train and deliver healthcare, not just on the individual level, but the population level as well. As Boston Medical Center’s first medical-legal partnership attorney, Josh Greenberg taught me as a pediatric intern how to advocate for issues affecting not just one patient, but policies that impact all patients. He now is the Vice President for Government Relations at Boston Children’s Hospital advocating for seamless care for chronically ill kids. Doctor Kerry Rodabaugh wrote medical-legal partnership into her offer letter when she moved from New York to Nebraska because having worked at a hospital with a medical-legal partnership, she never wanted to go back to practicing without legal experts as part of her team.

In pediatrics, we talk about life course as the trajectory that patients are on to lead healthier lives. Life courses pivot up with more protective factors, and can plateau with too many risk factors. My life course as a pediatrician took a huge pivot up when I was exposed to medical-legal partnership, as it has for thousands of other health care professionals.  It helps us better treat not only the patients in front of us, but whole populations as well.

*Megan Sandel, MD, MPH is the Medical Director at National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership and an Associate Professor at the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Five Things the Civil Legal Aid Community Can Learn from Medical-Legal Partnership

By Jim Sandman*

Medical-legal partnerships are one of the most important developments in the delivery of civil legal services in the last twenty years. They represent the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship our community needs. There are currently 48 federally-funded civil legal aid agencies that have formally partnered with healthcare institutions, and I’d like to see that number grow. 

I draw five important lessons from medical-legal partnerships:

1.    Meet clients where they are.

Research from Rebecca Sandefur and the American Bar Foundation shows that the majority of people with a civil legal problem – 78% – do not seek outside help.  A big reason why is that people often do not recognize their problems as being legal in nature.  There are also significant barriers, like transportation, that keep people from making it to legal aid offices.

Medical-legal partnerships bring civil legal aid on-site at healthcare institutions where people in our community go to seek help for other issues.  MLPs not only help clients by co-locating healthcare and civil legal aid services, they provide the opportunity to reach people who would never identify their legal problems as legal.  We in the civil legal aid community should embrace this strategy and take our services to the other places in the community where people go for help.

2.    Never limit the service by the label the client has given it. Learn how to think like a client, not like a lawyer.

Law school trains us to think in a very specific way that can benefit our clients when we are advocating for them.  But that same training can create barriers to reaching clients. Civil legal aid is set up to reach those clients who have self-identified their problems as legal and come to legal aid’s door. 

Medical-legal partnerships teach us that people often seek medical treatment for problems that have a legal component. They are seeking help; they just aren’t seeking legal help. Lawyers who work at medical-legal partnerships have learned to ask different screening questions and work with healthcare providers to ask about basic needs in a way that will detect legal problems the client has not identified as legal. Lawyers need to learn how not to think like lawyers and instead to think like our clients. We in legal aid need to ask ourselves how our clients frame their problems and where they go for treatment.

3.    When it comes to data, more is more. And other sectors have data we can use.

Medical-legal partnerships provide access to more data about clients’ circumstances. The more we know about our clients, the better we will be able to help address their problems. Medical data can support appeals for insurance, public benefits, and housing subsidies.  When a civil legal aid office has a strong partnership with a healthcare institution, this additional information and expertise becomes more readily available, allowing attorneys to better represent their clients.  This concept is not limited to health information.  Partnerships with other organizations serving legal aid clients can open the door to new information that helps us achieve better legal outcomes for clients.

4.    More data leads to systemic solutions, which helps more people.
One of the best ways to extend civil legal aid’s limited resources and reach a larger number of clients is to address chronic problems with systemic solutions. Medical-legal partnerships do this by sharing health and legal data that identify patterns of need. For example, data on asthma admissions can help detect substandard housing clusters. Identifying and addressing these types of problems require data and expertise that neither the healthcare or civil legal aid community has alone.

Systemic solutions not only expand the reach of our limited resources, they are more attractive to funders, including government funders. Civil legal aid can look to other sectors – transportation, education, urban planning – to identify opportunities to share our individual knowledge about our communities and to collaborate on policy solutions.

5.    Cross sector partnerships open up new sources of funding and additional funding from old sources.

Medical-legal partnerships take civil legal aid and reframe it as a healthcare intervention – as something that can improve the health and well-being of communities.  Medical-legal partnerships have started to open up new sources of funding for civil legal aid – from health centers and hospitals that have contributed funding to civil legal aid attorneys who work on-site in their clinics, from healthcare foundations that support the work of these partnerships, and from federal healthcare grants to support civil legal aid.

As we think about strategies for bringing new monetary support to civil legal aid, we need to expand beyond our traditional funding sources.  Partnerships with healthcare and other sectors create possibilities for innovations and new relationships that can lead to additional funding.

As we look to the future of civil legal aid, we must enlist new allies for our work. We need to leave our offices and go into the community to find new partners and new ways of doing business.

*Jim Sandman is President of the Legal Services Corporation, the federal funder of civil legal aid in the United States.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Most Important Data Point Civil Legal Aid Isn’t Collecting

By: Ellen Lawton, JD*

“Where do you get your healthcare?”

It is a simple question, and one that all civil legal aid offices who handle intake and requests for services - whether statewide, regional, local or subject matter specific – would do well to think about asking and tracking for all their clients and potential clients.  Why?  This one simple question offers important perspective on your clients, and creates opportunities for important community partnerships.  And it is not difficult to collect.

Asking where clients receive their healthcare allows your staff to understand an essential - some would say dominant - aspect of your clients’ lives.  The health picture of low-income, civil legal aid clients is pretty clear and fairly grim: one in four has been diagnosed with at least one chronic illness, requiring regular interfacing with healthcare and pharmacy services.  Families have even greater frequency of contact with healthcare systems given the need for regular, preventive care for children. And the increasing focus in healthcare on superutilizers – the five percent of the population that account for 50 percent of healthcare services used – dovetails with potential civil legal aid clients who have multiple civil legal needs.

Bottom line: clients spend a lot of time and energy getting their healthcare needs met, so we should better understand the institutions that take care of them. We can’t do that until we know where they get their healthcare. Is it at a community health center? The emergency room of the local hospital? The outpatient clinic in a major academic hospital? A veterans medical center?  Knowing this information tells us a lot about our clients’ lives.

It is also an excellent starting point for a conversation with local and regional healthcare institutions about civil legal aid, about the value of your services to their patients, and about forming a medical-legal partnership. As a community organization, being able to tell local hospitals and health centers how many of their patients seek your assistance is a powerful story. Knowing and sharing the number of their patients who use your services – and why – can help them grasp the value of a tighter, more structured relationship with you.

This is not a difficult data point to collect. It is data you can get directly from the person seeking your assistance, and it has the potential to yield a big return if it’s tracked universally across the civil legal aid agency.  Here’s how to do it:
  1. Get your intake staff together and develop a dropdown box that captures all of the local and regional healthcare providers.  Be sure that you have a good understanding of the different names (and nicknames) of healthcare entities, and make sure you specify emergency room versus outpatient services.
  2. Set a goal of tracking healthcare sites for both clients that are accepted for civil legal aid services, and those that are turned away. 
  3. After three months, check the distribution of healthcare sites for clients that you had to turn away - and think about how to communicate that to the healthcare sites.
My guess is that once you have this data, the healthcare institutions will be eager to talk to you about how to ensure their patients get access to your services in the future. 

*Ellen Lawton, JD, is the co-Principal Investigator of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Civil Legal Aid Services Now Included within Eligibility Assistance Services

This post originally appeared on the Health Law Blog of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP.

By Laura G. Hoffman* and Molly S. Evans**

In an exciting development for community health centers and their patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has clarified that civil legal aid services are included in the range of eligibility assistance and enabling services that community health centers may provide to meet the primary care needs of the population and communities they serve.

Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (the authorizing legislation of the health center program) requires community health centers to provide not only primary care services, but also certain non-medical services, including eligibility assistance services.  HRSA’s Form 5A (Services Provided) explains that eligibility assistance services are intended to provide “support to health center patients to establish eligibility for and gain access to appropriate federal, state and local programs that provide or financially support the provision of medical, social, educational, housing, or other related services (e.g., Medicaid, Veteran’s benefits, [SNAP, and] Legal Aid.)”

Form 5A goes on to state that “legal services/legal aid” are included in the description of the optional “additional enabling/supportive services” that health centers may provide, using grant funds provided under Section 330.  Such services are not clinical in nature, but have long been recognized as activities that improve health outcomes by “support[ing] a health center patient’s access to social, educational, or other related services (e.g., child care, food banks/meals, employment and education counseling, legal services/legal aid).”

You may wonder how civil legal aid services can improve, or enable, patient health.  Imagine a child who struggles with chronic asthma.  Despite the provider’s best efforts to control the asthma through the use of long-term control medications, emergency inhalers, and allergy medication, the child continues to suffer with asthma attacks multiple times a week, and often during the night, which affects his schoolwork due to interrupted sleep.  The provider knows that the child lives in a run-down apartment building and suspects that there may be environmental factors contributing to the child’s asthma, but is not sure what, if anything, she can do about it.

Enter medical-legal partnerships (MLPs).  MLPs pair health care providers with legal professionals to improve the health of health center patients.  In the example provided above, the health care provider can refer her patient to the health center’s legal partner, so that the legal partner can pressure the patient’s landlord to clean out the apartment’s mold, which will improve the health of the asthmatic child living in the apartment.  Other examples of civil legal aid services include legal aid professionals working with a child’s school to develop supports to help that child with his educational goals or contesting utility shut-off in order to keep patients warm and their medications refrigerated.

Given HRSA’s clarification of what activities qualify as eligibility assistance and enabling services, community health centers now have an opportunity to use existing grant funds or apply for additional enabling services grants from HRSA to support the development of MLPs.  Health centers are in an excellent position to work with civil legal aid agencies given the overlap of the missions of and communities served by each partner.  In addition, health centers seeking to strengthen their patient centered medical home efforts would likely benefit from including a legal expert familiar with the social determinants of health on the medical home care team.  At least 72 HRSA-funded health centers across the country already participate in MLPs, as do 135 hospitals and 55 community clinics.

To cultivate and support community health center participation in MLPs, HRSA has awarded the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) a three-year National Cooperative Agreement.  Of course, as is the case with any affiliation, health centers should consult with qualified legal counsel to consider the legal issues involved in establishing an MLP, such as creating Memorandums of Understanding between the partners, how to share medical and legal information, and how to ensure compliance with Section 330 grant requirements.

*Laura G. Hoffman is an Associate at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP.

**Molly S. Evans is a Partner at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Affordable Care Act: Opening Doors to MLP Expansion in Safety Net, Primary Care Settings

By Rebecca Whitaker* and Madlyn Morreale**

Having enough nutritious food is important to overall health; it can be especially important when undergoing cancer treatment. Days before going to the hospital for breast cancer surgery, Margaret, a single woman in her early 60s, applied for SNAP benefits (“Food Stamps”). Her application was approved, but she never received her benefits card. Margaret tried to work with the local social services agency to get her card, so did the hospital’s case manager. Neither effort was successful. After her surgery, Margaret followed up with her primary care provider at a community health center who was concerned that Margaret's poor nutritional status could compromise her recovery. The primary care doctor referred Margaret to the health center’s medical-legal partnership (MLP) program and within days, the MLP team persuaded the local social services agency to expedite Margaret’s SNAP benefits, allowing Margaret and her health care providers to focus on all of the other things she needed for her recovery.

Stories like Margaret’s are increasingly common. People need more than medical care alone to be healthy, and because they manage individuals’ care in the community, primary care providers can play an important role in connecting people to these services. Thanks in part to significant investment through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) represent the largest network of independent primary care providers in the US; 22 million patients, including many with chronic, life-threatening, disabling conditions, rely on FQHCs for their primary care.

In North Carolina, 32 new FQHC clinics have been established in the past four years, bringing the total to 180 clinical sites around the state. These clinics provide comprehensive, primary care services to all patients regardless of ability to pay. Nationally, 35% of FQHC patients are uninsured. In North Carolina, more than half of FQHC patients are uninsured.

Recognizing that health is influenced by complex social and environmental factors, FQHCs have developed a range of “enabling services” that are not clinical in nature, but that facilitate access to care and can improve their patients’ health. These enabling services include things like transportation, interpretation, outreach, and case management. In other words, FQHCs recognize that providing high-quality care for their patients often requires addressing non-medical issues that influence patient and population health. As described recently in a report by The Institute of Alternative Futures, “leveraging the [social determinants of health] is ‘in the DNA’ of CHCs.”

The proliferation of FQHCs in North Carolina combined with the opportunity to expand coverage through the Affordable Care Act, have created exciting opportunities for establishing new, or expanding existing, medical-legal partnerships. To help our organizations better understand the health-related legal needs of FQHC patients and to build a case for expanding MLPs within North Carolina’s community health centers, we conducted a needs assessment of more than 330 patients and more than 200 staff at five North Carolina health centers. Here are some of our findings.

  • Over 70% of patients reported experiencing an unmet health-related legal need within the past year.
  • Uninsured patients and patients reporting poor health status were significantly more likely to experience an unmet health-related legal need. These same groups were least likely to have sought legal assistance in the past or know where to go for legal help.
  • Even though the first two findings are troubling, we were delighted to learn that nearly 80% of health center patients said they would discuss legal/resource problems with their health care providers in the future.  
  • While staff reported varying levels of comfort screening patients for particular health-related legal needs, 71% of staff reported that they would screen and refer patients for free legal assistance if their health center had an established referral program.
  • Staff members with shorter tenures were more comfortable screening for these issues and were more likely to make referrals.
  • Lack of knowledge about existing resources was the most commonly reported barrier to addressing health-related legal needs. This barrier is one that certainly can be addressed with training.
The combined findings of these surveys are encouraging. While FQHC patients have significant unmet legal needs, the surveys showed patients are willing to discuss those needs with their primary care providers, and those same providers would be willing to screen and refer patients if free legal services were available. This is an ideal foundation for exploring how to expand MLPs among North Carolina’s community health centers.

Our statewide legal aid organization and primary care association (PCA), in partnership with dozens of others, are committed to helping North Carolina’s residents gain access to health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. As we approach the ACA open enrollment period that begins next month, legal aid agencies and PCAs across the country should reach out to one another to discuss how to combine their outreach and enrollment efforts. In many communities, this may already be happening.  And it is a great opportunity to begin the conversation about how medical-legal partnership can address other health-harming legal needs.

*Rebecca Whitaker is the former Director of Health Policy and Governmental Affairs at the North Carolina Community Health Center Association.

**Madlyn Morreale is the Supervising Attorney for the Medical-Legal Partnership Program at Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc.

Acknowledgements: A special thanks to Alexandra Harris, Grassroots Advocacy Manager for Special Populations at the National Association of Community Health Centers, for her assistance with data analysis on this project. Her efforts have allowed us to make stronger connections between CHC patients and unmet health-related legal needs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Preparing Civil Legal Aid to Partner with a Transforming Health Care System

By Camille Holmes, Director, Leadership & Racial Equity, National Legal Aid and Defender Association

One of my roles in the civil legal aid community has been to encourage innovative, systemic, collaborative, and community-based solutions to the structural problems facing low income communities, particularly those disproportionately impacting low income people of color. At the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), that has meant sharing cutting edge research and best practices that help civil legal aid programs prioritize “upstream” activities – those that are more likely to interrupt the stream of problems faced by low income people and build infrastructure for strong healthy communities. I have been privileged to help lead the charge in the civil legal aid community to break out of our silo and build new partnerships in service to community-defined need.

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, NLADA partnered with the National Health Law Program to hold a National Health Law Training for the civil legal aid community. Health has not been one of the “core” areas of civil legal aid representation, but that is beginning to change. At close to 19% of American GDP, health care touches every aspect of our lives. And while civil legal aid is now paying closer attention to the depth and breadth of health care challenges faced by our low income clients, we must also prepare to partner differently with a health care sector experiencing significant growth and transformation.  

The “Where Health Meets Justice” Fellowship Program was established in fall 2013 with support from Public Welfare Foundation specifically to provide senior civil legal aid leaders with the knowledge, skills and insights to leverage the significant opportunities for partnership and change in the health care landscape in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. NLADA is proud to co-sponsor this Fellowship with the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, and I have been delighted to participate as a facilitator and program design partner.  

Where Health Meets Justice was designed to unpack the health care sector for executive level legal aid leaders and build their capacity to partner with hospitals and health centers. The organization and financing of health care institutions – like hospitals and community health centers – Is new territory for many in civil legal aid. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators use different terminology from ours. They have, as we do, their own alphabet soup of acronyms that can make communication and partnership challenging at the outset, unless we prepare ourselves.

The benefits of partnership are obvious, but we do not take them for granted.  A foundational topic in the Fellowship has been the alignment between civil legal aid mission and that of health care as it relates to the “social determinants of health.” As our Fellows craft effective working relationships with health care institutional leaders, our industries can join the expertise of legal advocates with that of medical professionals to address the deep-seated injustices and structural failures that sustain so much illness in our society. The Where Health Meets Justice Fellowship provides leadership coaching, substantive training and networking to advance our common vision of healthy communities. That’s real impact. And impact is what it is all about.

Applications are now being accepted for the second year of the Fellowship. Click here for more information and to apply. The deadline is November 20, 2014. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Combining Extreme Case Management with Legal Care to Prevent Elder Homelessness

By JoHanna Flacks, Legal Director, Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston

Case Manager:      Knock knock.  Knock knock.
                               Knock knock. Knock knock. 
                               Knock knock. Knock knock.
                               Knock knock. Knock knock.
                               Knock knock. Knock knock. 
                               Knock knock. Knock knock.
                               Knock knock. Knock knock.
                               Knock Knock . . .

Client:                    What!?

Case Manager:      Mr. D, it’s Roger.  I’m here to help again.  I’ll keep knocking until you’re ready.

This is not an existential joke, but rather an illustrative example of one way I've seen "Extreme Case Management" (ECM) reach some of the most isolated residents of Boston, older adults on the margins of society due to poverty, trauma history, mental illness, and addiction, among other risk factors. ECM -- an approach to elder homelessness prevention and advocacy innovated by the Elders Living at Home Program (ELAHP) based at Boston Medical Center (BMC) – describes a "high-touch" method of case management. It emphasizes not only meeting people where they are in the figurative sense, but actually going to people, like Mr. D, where they are and engaging with them actively in the process of averting threats to their housing stability – even when this means knocking on the door for a full 30 minutes because it will take Mr. D that long to muster the focus to work with his ELAHP case manager. 

Thanks to funding from the London-based Oak Foundation, the Florence V. Burden Foundation, and other donors, Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston has had the privilege of partnering with ELAHP and its extreme case managers for the last year on a project called Aging Right in the Community. This experience has taught me a lot, both as a lawyer and as a human being. The bottom line? I can’t imagine attempting legal advocacy for this complex population without partners who practice ECM.

Answering the door is the first step in the process of tackling the herd of elephants in the room: including the hoarding of elephant-sized piles of miscellany that completely filled Mr. D's bathroom floor to ceiling. Other elephant-sized health conditions, like PTSD, alcoholism and progressive dementia often underlie the symptom of hoarding, and can interfere, tragically, with a tenant's ability to avoid institutionalization.

From my legal perspective, ECM advantages tenants when negotiating with landlords at their wits' end. It makes it possible to break the problem down into approachable pieces, including (1) arranging home-based health care, (2) engaging housekeeping services, and (3) assuring that the tenants are not alone in their struggle to remain housed, frequently in the only community they've ever known.

Many ELAHP clients I've met seem more aged than their years. This is not surprising when at least one research study cited by the CDC estimates the average life expectancy for homeless people is 45. ELAHP clients who have a history of homelessness have battle scars to show for it, on top of the visible and invisible battle scars borne by the woefully high number of homeless and at-risk veterans. Those who have a history of homelessness and still reach the AARP's eligibility age (ELAHP primarily serves people over 60) very often need help both to get housing and to keep it. 

Protecting existing tenancies is a core ECM focus side-by-side with ELAHP’s policy advocacy to increase appropriate emergency shelter options and permanent deeply-subsidized housing stock that meets elders’ needs. While there is encouraging movement toward a right to housing, (See the D.C. Right to Housing Initiative and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s work), for the time being existing deeply subsidized housing stock meets only half the need for it, and the statistics are worse for people with disabilities that require accessibility features. This is a health equity issue of monumental proportions. Against this backdrop, helping tenants hold tight to the affordable housing they have clearly is critical.

Extreme Case Management doesn't end with the dismissal of an eviction action. The door to the office Roger Arrendol, ELAHP’s senior Case Manager, shares with another case manager and a stabilization worker is always open. New and long-time ELAHP clients often drop in at ELAHP's modest offices tucked in the back of BMC's Massachusetts Avenue overpass. From the East-facing windows, you can see the line queue up outside the Wood's Mullen shelter in the afternoon – a line in which many ELAHP clients have a history of waiting, a fear of waiting again, and a high risk of waiting again were it not for their relationship with ELAHP.

One of the first things I noticed about ELAHP's ECM practice is that it's not exactly an empowerment model.  ELAHP serves people who need hands-on support and who are likely on a trajectory to needing more.  It's not about targeted coaching, an advocacy gestalt that is crucial for many people on other legs of their life course. Those of us in the medical-legal partnership community and allied disciplines are increasingly pursuing a strengths-based approach to advocacy, identifying protective factors that boost an interpersonal violence survivor, a down-sized older worker, or a young family's capacity to build a stable life free from abuse and discrimination, and provide an enriched growing and learning environment for children. I love this model. It makes an important point Elmer Freeman, MSW, Director of the Office of Urban Health Programs and Policy at Northeastern University’s BouvĂ© College of Health Sciences, often emphasizes: most of the problems confronted by disempowered people are not “in their heads.” Maybe they could benefit from clinical therapy, but what would be really therapeutic is justice. And justice is most therapeutic when the aggrieved party defines it, designs it, and helps build it.  

All this notwithstanding, I've become increasingly convinced that not everyone gets what they need from an empowerment model, at least at first; but this doesn't necessarily mean they're not "advocacy ready." All too often even younger adults and parents with clinical depression get stuck in a cycle of needing public benefits in order to engage with clinical care, and needing clinical care in order to get public benefits, and getting neither because what they really may need as a condition precedent to an empowerment approach is Roger Arrendol knocking at their door, and knocking again; and when that patient is enrolled in MassHealth and has applied for SSI with the benefit of well-developed medical evidence, and that patient learns to manage their depression, an empowerment model of advocacy can work. Meanwhile, ECM may be able to help prevent expensive and inhumane cycles of hospitalization and homelessness.

For Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston, ECM is embodied in the quietly heroic work of ELAHP’s case managers who stabilize tenancies for older adults with multiple complex health conditions, day in and day out. In your community, ECM may be practiced by case managers, care coordinators, resource social workers, navigators, or community health workers. Is your medical-legal partnership working with collaborators who are committed to some version of ECM?  If not, track those colleagues down. And knock loudly when you find them.