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The Legal Initiative for Children (LINC) is an innovative collaboration between Mass General and The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. The project was launched in 2003 to improve the health and well-being of low-income families, whose children are patients of the pediatric practice. The goal of the program is to address legal issues that may affect a child’s health. LINC focuses on housing stability and family income, the two social determinants of health viewed as most critical to the child and family’s health. The attorney works to expand family resources and prevent homelessness. Being homeless exacerbates physical, emotional, and psychological problems and increases health care costs fourfold (The Impact of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention, Boston Bar Association Report, March 2012, Appendix A, p.4).
Pediatricians make referrals to the Community Health Team when they think an attorney’s skills could make the difference. A manager on that team screens the referrals for appropriateness, often consulting with a CHW who may know the family. The attorney, who is on site one day per week, also partners with the CHW team and provides representation to prevent eviction, obtain child support orders, file for unemployment benefits, apply for subsidized housing, complete naturalization forms, appeal denial of disability awards and, in general, facilitate access to public benefits.
This is a unique model of medical-legal partnership in which social and economic problems are identified at an early stage and culturally appropriate solutions are rapidly implemented.
The collaborative nature of this Project has yielded significant results: over the twelve-year period, more than 575 clients have been served, leading to material outcomes affecting more than 2000 family members. The goal for the coming year is to increase efficiency so as to serve more clients. The application process for disability benefits will be streamlined with more effective screening of claimants, better document preparation and more frequent provider consultations.
LINC also works with community organizations such as the Chelsea Collaborative and Centro Latino.
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