CHARLESTON — Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) and Medicaid provider UniCare, recently formed a medical-legal partnership that will train UniCare staff to identify civil legal issues affecting their more than 180,000 members and make direct referrals to LAWV for assistance.
The medical-legal partnership is a model successfully used in communities across the United States that approaches health holistically and includes addressing legal problems that may be affecting the overall well-being of clients or patients. Legal issues are expected to include many family-oriented challenges, such as custody, adoption, protection from domestic violence, housing issues, help with public benefits and many others.
“Healthcare research consistently demonstrates that social drivers of health such as poverty, race, geography and more have direct impacts on an individual’s health and well-being,” says Tadd Haynes, plan president, UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia. “Helping our members resolve issues outside of traditional healthcare support can directly affect their overall health and wellness. UniCare Health Plan continues to find innovative solutions for our members and the community that are vital in reducing stress and alleviating the burden.”
Legal Aid attorney Olivia Haught, based in Morgantown, W.Va., is working directly with UniCare staff to educate them on the services provided by LAWV and train them to spot civil legal issues and make referrals.
“I am excited to be able to take on this pilot program,” Haught says. “I will be able to help people throughout my home state. I consider it a great privilege to work with a provider like UniCare that searches for opportunities to improve their members’ lives.”