Removing Barriers to Health Through Legal Assistance
Sue visited her doctor because of recurring headaches, wheezing and hives. During the exam, she told her doctor about a leaky roof and mold in her apartment and a landlord unwilling to resolve the issues. As part of her treatment, she left her doctor’s office with a prescription for an attorney.
Providence has an innovative medical-legal partnership where health providers at the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic and Providence House of Charity Clinic may prescribe an attorney to their low-income patients if they determine legal intervention would help address or resolve a patient’s health issue. Attorneys at Spokane’s Health & Justice Clinic, run by Northwest Justice Project, receive the referrals. The attorneys’ work with patients to investigate and determine a resolution, such as compelling a landlord to abate mold and make repairs. The patients do not pay the attorneys’ fees.
With this unique partnership, providers can address the non-medical root causes of health issues. And because, in Sue’s case, the mold is gone and her roof no longer leaks, her condition improves. She feels better and saves on the cost of future doctor’s visits and medications.
Providence community benefit investment dollars
In 2019, Providence contributed $140,000 community benefit investment dollars to help fund Spokane’s Health & Justice Clinic. As it makes funding decisions for these dollars, Providence identifies organizations that are addressing needs affecting the health of the community, with a special emphasis on programs that serve the poor and vulnerable.
“Because of our unique partnership with Providence, we can provide these important services to those most vulnerable in our community,” said Jefferson Coulter, managing attorney, Northwest Justice Project.
Spokane’s Northwest Justice Project office serves six eastern Washington counties – Spokane, Whitman, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Orielle and Stevens – as well as the Colville, Kalispel and Spokane Tribes. In addition to its partnership with Providence, the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) team is expanding its list of services and community partners, including working with individuals with developmental disabilities in partnership with the Arc of Spokane.
“Our partnership with Providence got the ball rolling,” said Kathy Jensen, HJI lead attorney. “We try to look at what the needs are in the community and expand to meet the needs, working with Providence and other community partners.”
Providence providers or social workers refer patients most in need to the Health & Justice Clinic for assistance. Northwest Justice is also a front door legal services provider, meaning those who qualify for their services may apply directly for assistance. To find out more, contact the Spokane office at 1-844-787-8822 or HJI@NWJustice.org. To contact another location in Washington state, visit www.NWJustice.org.
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