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Community Legal Aid receives grant for medical-legal partnership

Akron Children's Hospital
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Community Legal Aid has received a grant to help the community of Northeast Ohio in conjunction with Akron Children's Hospital.

Community Legal Aid received a $214,000 grant to assist patients at Akron Children’s Hospital who are afflicted with difficult living conditions, the organization said.

The money will expand an ongoing program with the hospital where patients receive pro bono legal assistance from Legal Aid, the organization said. Through Legal Aid's Health, Education, Advocacy and Law Project, lawyers get referrals from healthcare providers for legal issues that impact health, the organization said. The grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families is a part of a wider initiative called Medical-Legal Partnerships Plus. The program addresses root causes of poor health outcomes and health inequities.
Typically patients come in with problems that get in the way of receiving medical care, Akron Children's manager of social work Michele Mizda said. The program allows the hospital to take a holistic approach to improving health outcomes.

“Those individuals can present with a number of medical issues, which is why they are connected with us," Mizda said. "Yet we often find that they have other issues in their lives that can be barriers to care."

These barriers can include eviction, education, immigration and issues with custody and housing, Mizda said, adding that she hopes this program can begin to eliminate these barriers.

“Health is more than healthcare," Legal Aid managing attorney Marie B. Curry said. Access to attorneys and social workers can have a direct impact on health outcomes, she added.

Legal Aid has helped several hundred families last year with this program, which has existed for more than ten years, the organization said.

This funding will directly help people in Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne counties.

“We recognize that medical [problems] is just a portion of a person’s life,” Mizda said.

Legal Aid is one of eight organizations in the country to receive this federal funding for the program, the organization said.

Without the commitment of Akron Children's Hospital, the grant wouldn't be possible, Curry said.

“There are so many things about our basic needs that must be attended to, to help take care of that whole person, and having this type of engagement between Children’s Hospital and Community Legal Aid gets to the core of those issues,” Mizda said. “We are so excited to be able to make a difference in the community and help people with these issues.”

Since it began, the partnership has helped 1,300 families resolve 2,100 legal issues, Legal Aid said.

Emma MacNiven is a senior journalism student at Kent State University.