Unmet Legal Needs and How Legal Services Can Help
Unmet legal needs affect millions of people and directly impact the quality of health care. This article explores why legal needs are unmet, the impacts on health care, and ways to address these problems. Let’s start with the basics. Everyone has legal needs, and some are more common than others. Below are a few examples of how these unmet needs affect health care. And you’ll also learn about ways that Hassett & George, P.C. legal services can help you.
Unmet legal needs
In the UK, unmet legal needs affect 3.6 million adults annually, and 50 percent of small businesses must handle legal matters on their own without the expertise of a lawyer. Cost is the primary reason for not seeking the assistance of a lawyer, and the public has a negative view of lawyers. Despite this, it is essential to acknowledge that access to legal services is necessary for a thriving economy. Unmet legal needs can be addressed by ensuring that the services provided by legal service providers match clients’ needs.
This access-to-justice crisis is much larger than the problems that lawyers handle, even in the best-funded legal aid organizations. Many low-income people have no way to afford a lawyer, and the system is often unequal and systematically inaccessible. A recent report from the Legal Services Corporation called this situation a crisis of unmet legal needs. The solution to this problem requires a fundamental shift in how civil justice is understood and served.
While identifying unmet legal needs is crucial, a variety of factors play a part in determining how many people need help. In most cases, the need for family or civil law legal assistance is more widespread than we might think. This is because many people are unfamiliar with their rights and cannot afford the cost of hiring an attorney, and most people don’t believe that legal aid exists. As a result, a lawyer with experience in family or criminal law may be more familiar with such needs than someone who has never used the service.
Impact of unmet legal needs on health care
A research team has reported that unmet legal needs can have detrimental effects on health. Poor communities are more likely to develop chronic diseases. They also experience higher rates of emergency shelter use. Poverty also affects health: people in poverty live two to three years shorter than those in higher-SES communities. Their chronic disease rates are higher than in other areas of Canada, and their lifestyle behaviors are worse. This is why a medical-legal partnership is essential.
In poor communities, many seek primary care physicians for health-related problems and may have unmet legal needs. These patients are at increased risk of developing chronic diseases or mental illnesses. Providing legal services to these patients may improve their health outcomes. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is well known that poverty is an essential social determinant of health. Access to legal services contributes to poor health outcomes, often associated with an increased risk of chronic disease, mental illness, and comorbidities.
While it is true that a medical-legal partnership can make an impact on health care, there are important differences between the two contexts. For example, healthcare organizations in the USA tend to provide legal services for free. In Canada, medical-legal partnerships are more common, allowing hospitals to draw on an existing reservoir of free legal services. The key to these partnerships’ success is finding sustainable financing sources for both organizations.
Ways to address unmet legal needs
Across the nation, many low-income individuals have unmet legal needs, and these unmet needs can have serious health consequences. To address these needs, more than eighty medical-legal partnership programs have been created at hospitals and clinics, each tailored to meet a patient’s specific needs. These programs aim to help low-income patients obtain the services they need before they reach crisis levels. These programs also provide legal services in partnership with other healthcare professionals, promoting public health.
The American Bar Association recognized that “millions of low-income Americans face civil legal problems that are not adequately addressed.” These unmet needs jeopardize basic human needs and contribute to health inequity. The study found that over 80% of households in Washington State experienced at least one civil legal need in a given year. Of these, thirteen6,000 were housing-related, eighty-nine thousand were family-related, and eighty-nine percent involved legal issues related to employment and consumer-related issues. Furthermore, 60,000 households had legal needs related to municipal and public services.
These programs and services are essential for improving public health, especially among low-income Americans. They help people address civil legal problems that otherwise go unrecognized. According to the Legal Services Corporation, nearly 1 million Americans are impacted by the justice gap, a gap between the level of available legal aid and the number of low-income people needing assistance. By providing legal services and education in a trusted health care setting, MLPs can identify the patients who would benefit most from such services.