Earlier this month, Aunt Martha’s Homeless Health Outreach Clinic began seeing Hesed House guests at its new clinic located in Hesed House’s Comprehensive Resource Center. With the opening of the clinic, guests and residents now have on-site access to primary care medical services 30 hours a week, as opposed to the 6 hours per week the clinic staff were previously available.
Even more exciting than having the on-site medical clinic up and running, is the fact that the Northern Illinois University College of Law is partnering with Aunt Martha’s on an innovative and collaborative project at Hesed House. This medical-legal partnership strategically teams up legal professionals with medical experts to form a health care delivery model that improves the health and well being of vulnerable and impoverished populations, removing legal barriers that impede overall health.
Every day, unmet health-related legal issues keep vulnerable Americans, many of whom are living in poverty and are either homeless or near-homeless, from getting and staying healthy. Children and families may have recently lived in unsafe/unhealthy housing due to mold or lead paint. Veterans and other individuals might have been denied the disability they truly deserve and qualify for. Single parents might be turned down for healthcare coverage, childcare assistance or unemployment benefits due to confusion when completing required paperwork or incorrectly filing appeals of a benefit denial. In each of these cases, traditional healthcare services – no matter how expertly administered, and no matter how capable and compassionate the clinician – will not improve an individual’s health. Rather, legal assistance is crucial to negotiate with landlords, appeal denied disability and insurance claims, and expedite access to benefits and services. Health care is most effective when it targets the source of a person’s health problem, and because legal needs have a significant impact on health, it’s important that they are addressed as a part of health care.
In true collaborative form, the NIU Legal team has an office located within the new medical clinic, as well as a second office located amongst Hesed’s case management and supportive services staff. What this means for Hesed’s guests and residents is quicker and better access to the benefits and health care they qualify for, which will help them improve their overall well-being in a more comprehensive and holistic manner.