Published on October 03, 2019

Reading Hospital Partners with MidPenn Legal Services to create Medical Legal Partnership 

West Reading, PA., October 1, 2019 - Reading Hospital and MidPenn Legal Services have joined forces to improve patients' health in a way that reaches beyond the clinical setting into another important arena: legal services.

Be Well Berks, an initiative of the Community Wellness Department of Reading Hospital, has partnered with MidPenn Legal Services to create the Be Well Berks Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) program. Funded by the Be Well Berks Grant Program, the MLP provides free civil-legal advice and representation to low-income patients facing health-harming legal needs.

"We have patients that experience tremendous health issues resulting from challenges such as not having enough food, living in dangerous housing conditions and sometimes fearing retaliatory evictions" said Desha Dickson, Reading Hospital Associate Vice President for Community Wellness. "The Be Well Berks Medical Legal Partnership Program integrates legal assistance as a vital component of patient care, and it is improving patients' health and lives."

According to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership, when legal expertise and services are used to address social needs, people with chronic illnesses are admitted to the hospital less frequently, take their medication as prescribed, report less stress, and experience improvements in mental health, are more likely to use preventative healthcare, and clinical services more frequently reimbursed by public and private payers.

Since it began in December 2018, the Be Well Berks Medical Legal Partnership Program has received 193 referrals. Of those 193 referrals, 126 have been completed. The MLP addresses legal issues in the areas of income stability (such as income support, food insecurity, disability income and insurance) and housing stability (such as evictions, utility shut-off, poor conditions, foreclosures, lead paint and Section 8 terminations).

Social Determinant of Health screenings are conducted at several Reading Hospital sites - the Emergency Department, Children's Health Center, Women's Health Center, Center for Public Health, Center for Mental Health, Family Health Care Center, A4 Specialty Clinic,13 Tower Health Medical Group ambulatory sites and four Berks Community Health Center locations. In addition to legal issues, the screenings are used to identify housing, utilities, transportation, food and personal safety needs.

"The emphasis is on prevention," said Molly Sanders, Esq., MidPenn Managing Attorney of the Be Well Berks Medical Legal Partnership Program. "Our goal is to address legal needs before they result in legal or medical emergencies. As a result, we're already seeing an improvement in the health and well-being of our clients across Berks County."

                                                                                                                         

About Reading Hospital

Reading Hospital is the flagship, Magnet Recognized, acute care hospital of Tower Health. Located in West Reading, Pa., Reading Hospital is a 714-bed hospital that is home to many top-tier specialty care centers, including Reading HealthPlex, McGlinn Cancer Institute, Miller Regional Heart Center, Emergency Department, Level I Trauma Center and Beginnings Maternity Center, which houses the region's only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). With more than 1,000 physicians and providers across 46 locations, Reading Hospital has been recognized for its quality outcomes and clinical expertise across services lines. It is listed as one of America's 100 Best Hospitals for three consecutive years and received a 5-Star Rating from CMS. For more information, visit towerhealth.org. 

 

About MidPenn Legal Services 

MidPenn Legal Services is a non-profit public interest law firm that provides high quality free civil legal services to low-income residents and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Berks and 17 other counties in Central Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.midpenn.org