Montana Health Justice Partnership
The Montana Health Justice Partnership (MHJP) improves patient health by addressing health-harming legal needs of patients whose health solutions lay outside the boundaries of medicine. The Partnership integrates legal staff into health teams for matters such as moldy housing, family violence, and medical debt, which all negatively impact patient health.
This program is a Montana Healthcare Foundation pilot program partnered with Montana Legal Services Association that focuses on training health and legal teams to work collaboratively to screen and to refer patients for legal needs related to health, providing legal advice and representation, and improving policies that impact community health. Through these focuses, MHJP advocates for health outside of receiving medical attention.
Patients of participating health centers in Havre, Libby, and Great Falls as well as patients of migrant farm worker clinics in Billings, Dillon, Fairview, and Lolo are served by MHJP.
Major partners of MHJP are Montana Legal Services Association, Montana Primary Care Association, Bullhook Community Health Center, Northwest Community Health Center, Community Health Care Center, Montana Ag Worker Health and Services, Montana Healthcare Foundation, Montana Justice Foundation, and Legal Services Corporation.
MHJP consists of partners from different sectors who share the same mission and vision for their work, which makes collaborating easier. All partners invest money, staff, and office resources, and the communal goals of the partners have attracted support from foundations that focus on justice and health improvement. Using technology to manage the project, collecting data, and enabling medical and legal partners to communicate have all contributed to the program’s success.
Through this collaboration, MHJP had 366 patient referrals, 228 legal intakes, and 155 case referrals within the first year. Those assisted received $859 on average in economic benefits, and 94% of participants reported improved health.
“Success requires buy-in from all levels of partner staff; their feedback is important in order to develop an effective and sustainable partnership. Technology solutions can be worth the investment – collecting outcomes data is critical for evaluating impact and demonstrating value to partners and patients. A good data system can also help to reduce administrative burden,” according to Kallie Dale-Ramos of Montana Legal Services Association.
For more information about this program, visit their webpage at https://mthcf.org/grantee/montana-legal-services-association/.
Social conditions often affect health poorly and can lead to denial of services for a healthy lifestyle. A health-harming legal need is “a social problem that adversely affects a person’s health or access to healthcare, and that is better remedied through joint legal care and healthcare than through healthcare services alone. It is a type of social determinant of health,” according to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. Medical-legal partnerships can help clinicians, case managers, and social workers navigate non-medical health issues through the assistance of lawyers. Patients’ health improves through legal intervention due to reduced stress. These collaborations allow patients to get the help they need in a more effective, timely manner.
For more information, visit the websites below.