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ABLE’s Medical-Legal Partnership for Children Addresses Social Determinants of Health

Healthcare providers recognize that their patients’ health status is often negatively affected by social and environmental conditions – also known as social determinants of health – that medical care alone cannot remedy. This is where ABLE’s Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC) in Toledo steps in. The MLPC pairs legal aid attorneys with pediatric medical and mental health providers to improve the health and well-being of children whose needs may not be getting met due to socioeconomic factors. Program partners include ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital, ProMedica pediatric primary care clinics, Mercy Health, and Rocket Pediatrics – UT Health, and the MLPC is generously supported by  the ProMedica Foundation, Miniger Foundation, France Stone Foundation, United Way of Greater Toledo, and Dana, Incorporated.

The MLPC in Toledo collaborates with medical partners in impact advocacy to advance health equity and in assisting patients in individual cases. In 2020, the MLPC joined with community partners in a research project to identify the primary causes of unlawful evictions in Toledo, while also providing potential solutions. Using the results, the MLPC, other ABLE advocates, and partners advocated for the right to legal representation for low-income people facing eviction. After more than a year of hard work, research, and legal drafting, Toledo City Council passed a housing Right to Counsel ordinance in September 2021. The legislation was drafted by ABLE attorneys, and Toledo became the 14th jurisdiction in the country to guarantee legal representation for poverty-stricken tenants facing eviction. As a result, more people facing eviction receive representation in Toledo’s municipal court, where most landlords are represented, but a majority of tenants are not.

Additionally, ABLE remains steadfast in our commitment to addressing the social determinants of health by offering vital training of new physicians through the MLPC Advocacy Rotation through the University of Toledo’s Pediatric Medical Residency program. After completing the MLPC’s Advocacy Rotation, medical residents report a deeper understanding of the correlation between poverty and health inequities and feel better prepared to identify their patients’ unmet legal and social needs, connect patients with resources, and advocate directly for patients.

During the last nine years, the MLPC in Toledo has handled over 900 cases, assisting more than 3,400 low-income individuals with various legal matters including obtaining access to health care, public benefits, safe and affordable housing, and appropriate special education services; securing custody for relative caregivers; and achieving policy changes that remove barriers to obtaining needed medical treatment and equipment under Medicaid. Learn more about the impact of the MLPC in Toledo here.

About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.