Providence launches first hospital-based medical-legal partnership in Montana

In early 2020, Providence Montana and the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA), with support from the Montana Healthcare Foundation, launched a medical-legal partnership (MLP) to provide support to patients in need of civil-legal assistance. Through this program, low-income patients can receive free legal help in areas of law including housing, benefits, insurance, education and employment, family law, and advance care planning. Providence and MLSA share a commitment to responding to the unmet needs of our communities; addressing health-harming civil legal needs is at the heart of this partnership.

Providence Montana’s program is modeled on other medical-legal partnerships within Providence, including Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington and Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, Washington. Hospital and clinic staff at St. Patrick Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center can refer patients in need of civil-legal assistance to a dedicated attorney at MLSA, which is a federally and privately funded program dedicated to providing free legal advice in civil cases, referrals to pro bono attorneys, and educational materials to low-income people. Since the program’s launch, 135 patients have been referred to receive much needed legal help. Through the MLP, Providence and MLSA to work together to honor the dignity and rights of our patients, as in Julie’s* case:

Julie, in her 60s, was experiencing significant health issues and increasing cognitive deficits. She had been in the hospital for weeks and, due to concerns about her cognitive abilities, she was unable to discharge to a rehabilitation facility without a power of attorney in place.

Megan Dishong, the MLP attorney, determined that Julie had legal capacity to make decisions about a power of attorney, and worked with her to establish a medical power of attorney to allow a trusted relative to make medical decisions going forward.

*Patient name has been changed

This may have been one of the last opportunities Julie had to participate in her own medical decision-making due to increasing cognitive deficits. With the medical power of attorney in place, Julie was able to safely discharge to the next level of care.

Providing support and care to some of the most vulnerable members of our community is essential to Providence’s mission and the work done through partnerships such as this one. To learn more about the work Providence is doing in your community, please visit our Annual Report to our Communities.

To learn more about the MLP, check out this HealthBreak video.

To access information about  Montana Legal Services Association, please visit their website.


About the Author

Community Partnerships is a division that aligns the influence of Providence to create stronger communities, raise awareness, and illuminate a pathway that inspires all to serve. Through partnerships, we work to improve the health of our nation and achieve our goal of Health for a Better World.

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