The Legal Initiative for Care (LINC) is an innovative collaboration between Mass General and the Lawyers for Civil Rights. The project was launched in 2003 to improve the health and well-being of low-income families, who are patients of the Pediatric or Adult primary care practices at the MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center. The goal of the program is to address legal issues that may affect the patient’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 (see The Impact of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention, Boston Bar Association Report, March 2012, Appendix A, p.4).
Primary care physicians 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 Community Health Worker (CHW) who may know the family. The attorney, who is on site two days per week, also partners with the CHW team and provides representation to prevent eviction, file for unemployment benefits, apply for subsidized housing, advocate for special accommodations for patients with disabilities, 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.