The COVID-19 pandemic underscores what research has long documented—that unjust housing policies and housing instability are at the root of many health inequities across the country. In response to this growing challenge, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) is launching a new project in partnership with Kaiser Permanente and HealthBegins to connect health systems with legal resources for greater housing stability and eviction prevention.
A grant, distributed through Kaiser Permanente’s fund at the East Bay Community Foundation, provides a $4 million investment, most of which will support community-based legal organizations to address legal-related housing needs of the communities Kaiser Permanente serves. HealthBegins and NCMLP will support clinical and legal partners to develop, launch and evaluate medical-legal partnerships through a learning collaborative that will prioritize health equity and action at the individual, system and community levels.
“Kaiser Permanente’s investment in this partnership with GW’s NCMLP exemplifies the tangible impact academia and respected healthcare organizations can have on people’s daily lives when we work together to create a more just and equitable future for all,” said Donna Arbide, vice president of development and alumni relations at GW.
Lynn Goldman, dean of the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health, said the school is “thrilled” to take part in this new partnership to improve housing stability and the health of many communities around the country.
“This project will help build medical-legal partnerships, which have been shown to help prevent evictions and improve health outcomes,” she said.
Together, these organizations will initially help clinical and legal aid partners in at least five Kaiser Permanente regions establish medical-legal partnerships to improve housing stability, prevent evictions and advance health equity for Kaiser Permanente communities. This partnership was launched through Kaiser Permanente’s Housing for Health initiative and is funded for a minimum of two years.
“This project has the potential to redefine the standard of care for the tens of millions of people whose health and well-being is directly influenced by a wide range of legal needs, particularly in the area of housing,” said Joel Teitelbaum, co-director of NCMLP and a professor of health policy and law at the George Washington University. “NCMLP is inspired by Kaiser Permanente’s vision and delighted to embark on this project with the Housing for Health staff, and with Kaiser Permanente’s clinical and legal aid partners.”
Medical-legal partnerships have demonstrated remarkable success in improving health outcomes, lowering rates of hospitalization and improving housing stability for patients. There are now 450 of these partnerships operating in 49 states.
“There is growing evidence of the effectiveness and acceptability of medical-legal partnerships in patient care,” said David Grossman, interim senior vice president for Community Health at Kaiser Permanente. “At a time when so many people in Kaiser Permanente’s communities experience housing instability, we are thrilled to work together with these two organizations to help scale and evaluate this health equity strategy.”
The initiative will initially operate in the following Kaiser Permanente regions: Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, Northern California, Southern California and Hawaii.
“This is a significant milestone in the medical-legal partnership movement and for health care,” said Rishi Manchanda, president and CEO of HealthBegins. “This is the first time a private, national integrated health system has committed to investing in medical-legal partnerships at this scale. We’re proud to support NCMLP and Kaiser Permanente in this historic effort and believe this will inspire other health systems and plans to invest more in medical-legal partnerships to advance health equity, housing, and justice for historically marginalized patients and communities.”