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Medical Legal Partnerships Expanding in Minnesota

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PHOTO: With legal problems among the social determinants that can have a negative impact on health, several new locations for Medical Legal Partnerships soon will be operating in Minnesota. The partnerships have attorneys stationed at clinics so patients can get free legal advice and help while also being treated for their health issues. Photo courtesy Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
PHOTO: With legal problems among the social determinants that can have a negative impact on health, several new locations for Medical Legal Partnerships soon will be operating in Minnesota. The partnerships have attorneys stationed at clinics so patients can get free legal advice and help while also being treated for their health issues. Photo courtesy Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
June 25, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Just like many other external factors, legal issues can have a negative impact on people's health, and unique efforts to provide treatment for both at the same time are expanding in Minnesota.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation this week approved grants to support new Medical Legal Partnerships in Bemidji, Mankato and St. Paul.

Executive Director Carolyn Link says these partnerships work by integrating free legal services into a health care setting.

"The way it works is that doctors or nurses or dentists refer their patients to on-site attorneys, who can address those underlying social or economic problems that are complicating health and these problems do often have legal solutions," she explains.

Link says the issues that can be addressed through Medical Legal Partnerships include barriers around employment, family, government benefits and services, and housing.

One Medical Legal Partnership that began operations earlier this year with Foundation support involves CentraCare Health clinics in St. Cloud and Melrose, and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.

Supervising attorney Ralonda Mason says Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid has been able to help dozens of patients resolve their legal troubles.

"Patients report an improvement in stress levels and in concern about dealing with issues that they see that were impacting their health,” she relates. “And they're reporting overall an increase in their sense of health and healthfulness."

The CentraCare clinic in Melrose currently has an attorney on hand to consult with patients once a week, while the St. Cloud location has a lawyer on-site on a daily basis.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN