Activities & Outcomes
The Health Justice Project is an interdisciplinary, interprofessional clinic. By collaborating with medical, social work, public health and legal professions, we can improve the health of patients/clients. Our team employs a holistic and multifaceted approach to a patient’s/client’s health problems. Law students train health providers to identify social and legal issues that underlie health problems. Once an issue is identified, students and partners respond with legal and other appropriate interventions. Law students may be involved in a variety of cases that range in legal issue that create poor health outcomes from public benefit and disability denials, due process violations, dangerous housing conditions, to utility shut off, among others. Law students also collaborate with other professions to improve health outcomes for low-income individuals and families through public policy advocacy and reform.
Health Justice Project student, Melanie Younger (2011), visits Capitol Hill to discuss the work of the Health Justice Project with Illinois Congressmen.
Between January of 2010 and March of 2015, more than 160 students of law, medicine, social work, and public health participated in the Health Justice Project. These students collaborated with diverse partners to address more than 1,700 health-related legal and social issues including 620 housing cases, and 430 disability cases, among others. As a result, students obtained more than $125,000 in medical debt forgiveness for patients and over $557,000 in Medicaid reimbursement. Under the supervision of attorneys, students appealed improper disability benefit denials by the Social Security Administration, resulting in a 100% success rate in all cases with an appealable issue and nearly $200,000 in disability benefits. In eviction court, the Health Justice Project reduced patients’ housing and utility expenses by more than $57,000. These patient victories illustrate the power of interprofessional collaboration in a medical-legal partnership (MLP) and the model’s ability to prevent a legal issue from erupting into a long-term legal and social crisis for families and individuals.
Health Justice Project students held trainings for over 450 attendees, including nurses, doctors, and physician assistants, in the identification of legal and social determinants of health and the MLP model of practicing medicine. The Health Justice Project provides support to the 150 Erie Family Health Center physicians, our medical champions. In addition, the Health Justice Project supports the training of residents in the MLP setting and development of core competencies that meet Accredited Council for Graduate Medical Education and Interprofessional Education Collaborative standards.
Health Justice Project alumni have received prestigious post-graduate residencies and fellowships from Equal Justice Works, Skadden Fellowship Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation. Other graduates have joined the legal staff of existing MLPs in Chicago and other cities and founded new MLPs. Others, still, populate health practice groups of law offices and non-profit organizations. No matter where they are, Health Justice Project alumni remark that often credit their time in the Health Justice Project as instrumental to their successful practice of law. Students of each profession value their time on the frontlines of interprofessional collaboration to improve health equity and social justice.
“Ultimately, my time serving at the Health Justice Project was probably my most enriching and beneficial in law school.”
– Aleah Gathings, former Health Justice Project student.
For an overview of our accomplishments, click here.