The Health Education and Legal Support Project (HEALS) is a medical-legal partnership between Pisgah Legal Services and Mission Hospitals. The purpose of the project is to improve health and well-being for low-income people by integrating legal advocacy with health care. Through HEALS, PLS provides legal assistance to low-income patients to address non-medical barriers to health.

This program is a 2018 recipient of support from Mission Health Community Investment.

How Legal Aid Can Improve Health

The detrimental effects of poverty on child and adult health are well-established. Socio-economic problems, such as domestic violence and substandard housing, cause and exacerbate illness and injury and may reduce adherence to healthcare treatment plans. The impact of high-quality medical care provided by Mission may be diminished by the non-medical problems of many low-income families.

When patients’ housing, educational, safety and financial needs are met, medical interventions can have optimal impact and the need for ongoing medical care may be decreased. Through HEALS, PLS poverty law experts provide legal services to address socio-economic issues that impact health.

In many situations, PLS poverty law attorneys are uniquely qualified to assist patients to:

  • escape an abusive relationship;
  • defend their rights with a disreputable landlord;
  • preserve their housing and avoid homelessness;
  • avoid predatory creditors; or
  • navigate bureaucratic red tape to secure Medicaid or disability benefits.

HEALS is based on a model of medical-legal collaboration that has been implemented in more than 60 communities around the country.