Conference preview: Medical-legal partnerships

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Putting Care at the Center, the inaugural conference of our new National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, is just a month away. The conference will be a hub of innovation: a chance for participants to learn from each other and from both tested and emerging models for complex care around the country. As a conference sneak peek, we’re highlighting one of the conference’s six workshops: Medical Legal Partnerships for Complex Needs.

As we have learned here in Camden, NJ, the best way to care for patients with complex health and social needs is with an interprofessional team that is dedicated to centering patients’ needs. These teams often include physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, behavioral health specialists, community health workers/health coaches and more. Founded in 2006, the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership advocates the innovative addition of a lawyer to the health care team.

The National Center for Medical Legal partnership recognizes that many of the most vulnerable patients have civil legal needs that profoundly affect their mental and physical health— an average of two to three health-harming civil legal needs per low-income individual. These needs include housing, employment, domestic violence, benefits, immigration, and more.

The medical-legal partnership model does not treat lawyers as specialists to refer patients out to, but members of the health care team who share data and resources with health care providers. This means that they can work to not only meet individual patient needs, but also to identify larger patterns of need that can inform advocacy, policy, and system change.

“We know that unmet social needs often drive extraordinary health care utilization,” says Mark Humowiecki, Senior Director for National Initiatives at the Camden Coalition. “We’ve seen the tremendous value of the Medical Legal Partnership model: incorporating experienced lawyers to support and extend care teams’ ability to address critical issues like identification, income support, insurance and housing. We are thrilled that they will be joining us to help set the agenda for complex care at the national level.”

We hope you will join us December 7-9 in Philadelphia as well. Whether you want to learn about medical-legal partnerships, integrated data systems, state policy, or safety net Accountable Care Organizations, Putting Care at the Center will have workshops covering a range of major topics in complex care. Register today, or sign up for our National Center mailing list.

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