“Extra Oomph:” Addressing Housing Disparities through Medical Legal Partnership Interventions, a study by Diana Hernández at Columbia University published in Housing Studies, found that pairing legal experts with physicians to address housing and health concerns in a concerted effort improved patients’ housing affordability, stability, and adequacy. These improvements in housing outcomes are beneficial to patients’ mental and physical health.
The Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) is a national program that pairs legal professionals with physicians in a clinical setting to simultaneously address patients’ health concerns and housing problems that may cause poor health outcomes. The program is based on the belief that circumstances at home have significant impacts on an individual’s health and well-being. Low income individuals experience the brunt of housing affordability, stability, and quality (e.g., mold, rodent infestation, or lead exposure) problems that increase stress and affect health. These individuals often lack access to legal services during eviction proceedings or in asserting their tenant rights for safe and decent housing.
Hernández conducted interviews with 36 patients who participated in the MLP program in Boston, MA. Fifty-three percent of these patients had incomes less than $10,000, and 69% were receiving housing subsidies. Prior to intervention, 53% reported living in inadequate housing – living doubled-up or in poor physical conditions, not having reasonable accommodations for a disability, living in a dangerous neighborhood, or having utilities turned off. Thirty-three percent were struggling to afford rent or utilities and 14% reported housing instability, being at risk of eviction and homelessness.
Eighty-three percent of MLP participants improved their living situation. Legal assistance enabled patients to reinstate their utilities after a shut-off or to prevent a utility shut-off for medical reasons, obtain reasonable accommodations for a disability, assert their tenant rights to obtain physical improvements to their housing, avoid eviction, retain or regain their housing subsidy, relocate to a better residential environment, and appeal a rent hike. Thirty-six patients who were not part of the MLP program were less likely to resolve their housing problem. Sixty-four percent of non-MLP patients did not resolve their housing problem, compared to just 17% of MLP patients.
“Extra Oomph:” Addressing Housing Disparities through Medical Legal Partnership Interventions is available at: http://bit.ly/1sPuYNK
More information on the Medical Legal Partnerships program is available at http://medical-legalpartnership.org/