Overcoming Legal Barriers to Health

Medical-legal collaboration works to improve health care for vulnerable populations in Cleveland

Dates of Project: August 1, 2006 through December 31, 2010

Description:  From August 2006 through December 2010, the Community Advocacy Program (CAP) paired medical and legal professionals to improve community health in Cleveland.

Doctors, nurses, and social workers from the MetroHealth System teamed with lawyers from the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to help vulnerable populations overcome legal barriers to their health.

“Providers have about 15 minutes with a patient, and many patients present with multiple health issues, social issues.”—Megan Sprecher, CAP

Expanding on a pilot program that started in 2002, CAP staff extended the hospital-based project into three community health centers in low-income neighborhoods facing significant poverty and health care disparities.

“Sometimes having a lawyer on your side to advocate for your patient gives you a tremendous advantage.”—E. Harry Walker, MD, project director

Key Results

  • CAP provided direct legal advocacy and services to 868 MetroHealth patients.

  • CAP established a ReEntry Clinic for persons released from incarceration with medical conditions, providing medical and mental health care to 989 former prisoners.

  • Project staff successfully advocated for policy changes, including a new Cleveland Police Department protocol for dealing with immigrants who experience domestic violence.

  • CAP attorneys trained 441 medical providers who attended educational sessions on legal topics impacting patients.

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A medical-legal partnership in Cleveland connects patients to legal help to get needed services.