Medical-Legal Partnership Expansion to Central Brooklyn
Special Projects Fund
June 14, 2021
Central Brooklyn communities have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of the highest rates of infection and death in the State.
Central Brooklyn is also home to a large proportion of low-income residents with high rates of chronic health conditions, premature mortality, and unemployment. At the same time, these neighborhoods are lagging citywide vaccination rates. The New York Legal Assistance Group’s LegalHealth division is a medical-legal partnership (MLP) that trains professionals to provide free legal assistance that can improve the lives of clients and their families. Lawyers are embedded in health care settings to identify and address complex problems that can negatively affect patients’ health and make successful medical treatment more difficult. During the pandemic, LegalHealth has seen new challenges arise, such as housing insecurity and family law issues, that can be addressed with effective legal intervention. In 2021, NYHealth awarded LegalHealth a grant to help patients in Central Brooklyn navigate and receive health and other services that fill needs brought on by the pandemic.
Under this grant, LegalHealth partnered with One Brooklyn Health System (OBHS), the area’s main health care provider, to expand its current MLP services to meet growing community needs. LegalHealth increased its capacity to provide free services to patients at legal clinics at OBHS’s three sites, preparing for the transition from remote services to on-site and in-person services. Staffing was expanded to provide more services in areas such as health insurance, housing, public benefits, family law, advance care planning, employment, and immigration. Services ranged from advice and counsel to full representation, as appropriate. LegalHealth also conducted virtual and in-person trainings for OBHS staff and clinicians on the social determinants of health and how they affect patients; emerging policy changes; how to screen patients for legal assistance needs; and how to make appropriate referrals to the program. It also coordinated with social workers, patient navigators, and other staff members on addressing the needs of patients, advocating for patients, and determining if a referral to LegalHealth is appropriate.