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Legal Council for Health Justice
Acclaimed Chicago-area HIV Legal Services Nonprofit Expands Mission, Changes Name to “Legal Council for Health Justice”
One of the region’s most respected nonprofit organizations, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, is changing its name to Legal Council for Health Justice. The new name reflects an agency expansion from single-disease services and advocacy on behalf of individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS to more broadly use the power of the law to build better lives across the lifespan of vulnerable people and communities challenged by chronic, disabling, and stigmatized health conditions.
The change is the result of an 18-month transformation which merged three established nonprofit programs — AIDS Legal Council, Homeless Outreach Project, and Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children – under one roof. In doing so, the agency has created one of the largest independent organizations in the country built entirely around delivery of legal services through models of care known as medical-legal partnerships (“MLPs”), forming a Midwestern hub of MLP program and policy development.
The medical-legal partnership approach aims to improve the well-being of people and communities by leading health, public health, and legal sectors in an integrated, “upstream” approach to combatting health-harming social conditions. The three programs will keep their names and continue to each grow high-quality education, client service, and policy work – just under the ‘umbrella’ of the new agency name. Current health and human service partners include Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, Fantus Clinic, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, Comer Children’s Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Howard Brown Health Center, TPAN, Austin Health Center, Friend Family Health Center, and Breakthrough Urban Ministries.
In the past fiscal year, agency programs have trained more than 1000 clinicians and clients, provided direct legal representation to almost 1500 adults, children, and their families, and made significant contributions to improving access and engagement in community well-being and economic security. Notably, AIDS Legal Council partnered with AIDS Foundation of Chicago with pro bono assistance from law firm Jenner & Block to make Illinois the first state in the nation to explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with HIV in insurance plans. Since then, insurers across the nation have voluntarily followed suit. Similarly, Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children was instrumental in protecting eligibility for Early Intervention, an early childhood program that helps close the gaps for infants and toddlers with developmental delays, from being cut in half. This program was also the force behind a key report in 2015 that triggered successful legislation (Public Act 099-0325) ensuring that students in charter schools have the same health and safety protections as students in district-run public schools statewide.
Most recently, the agency has been in the news for its leadership in two class action lawsuits to spur the State of Illinois to release payments for Medicaid-funded health services to medical providers statewide (Memisovski v. Maram and Beeks v. Bradley) despite a state budget impasse which began on July 1, 2015. This effort is the result of a decades-long collaboration between the Legal Council for Health Justice and the Shriver Center with pro bono assistance from law firm Goldberg Kohn. The litigation is presently pending.