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SIU Medical-Legal Partnership Aims to Help Families in Need

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A low-income family living in rental property discovers peeling lead paint. They could have health problems as a result. But many families don’t know how to get help for either their medical problems or legal questions. Medical-legal partnerships allow doctors to “prescribe” a lawyer to encourage the landlord to comply with housing laws before irreversible damage occurs. 

A new medical-legal partnership (MLP) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has been formed with the SIU Center for Family Medicine and the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. This partnership will help the area’s most vulnerable citizens navigate the legal system and improve health outcomes.

“This innovative partnership brings doctors and lawyers together for the betterment of these vulnerable clients, to focus on the social determinants of health,” said Diane Goffinet, senior supervisory attorney for MLPs with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc.

Medical providers identify the potential “upstream” health problems, and lawyers help steer around them, providing legal care, counsel and — when necessary — representation before the problems become a crisis.

“This tag-team approach will strengthen the health of our patients and our county,” said Janet Albers, MD, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at SIU School of Medicine. “We expect to see improvements in the health of children, the elderly and our patients with chronic illnesses through this program offered at our federally qualified health center in Springfield.” 

The SIU Medical-Legal Partnership at the Center for Family Medicine is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration. HRSA recognizes that social issues can determine health outcomes.

Training for the medical providers is ongoing, and the SIU Medical-Legal Partnership offers assistance at no cost to eligible FQHC patients. Patients in need of legal assistance should talk about it with the medical providers. For information about the Medical-Legal Partnership, call Rachel Beckett at 217-529-8400.

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