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impact update
summer 2019
Article 3

“I couldn’t see any way out ...”

In a time of need, Janet received help through Community’s Medical Legal Partnership. Created with support from the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society and funded by donors like you, the partnership integrates civil legal aid with healthcare. An attorney embedded in the Community Hospital East setting works alongside members of the healthcare team. Together, they screen for and treat health-harming legal needs—related to insurance, public benefits, education, legal status and more—to improve health and well-being and reduce healthcare utilization.

Janet had spent her career caring for others, but she recently found herself in a situation as the one in need of help.

She’d always been a caregiver and loved the work. In 2003, she went back to school to become a qualified medical assistant and served as a nurse’s aide in home healthcare. In the evenings, she’d come home to care for her husband, whose long-term illness had inspired her to seek additional training.

In early 2014, Janet lost her husband. Afterward, her living situation was unpredictable. She’d moved out of the apartment they had shared and spent several months staying with friends and eventually her husband’s children. In the midst of it all, she was diagnosed with and battled breast cancer, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with the help of caregivers at Community Cancer Center East. She also had cancer on her nose removed and underwent a hysterectomy, all within a matter of months.

In early 2016, Janet co-signed on an apartment lease with a friend, and they moved in together. Yet, only months later, her friend met someone, got married and moved out. With none of the apartment complex’s less expensive homes vacant, Janet was left struggling to pay for the rent all on her own.

Weeks later, Janet’s mother passed away, compounding an already difficult time in her life.

Janet soon learned that her mother had left her some money, which arrived by check each month; however, it arrived consistently just after her rent was due. Because of this, she was charged a $50 late fee by the apartment complex each month. In addition, she was struggling to pay down her student loan debt, for which late and interest fees had accrued over time.

“I couldn’t see any way out of this,” she says, explaining she was desperate for help but unsure where to turn.

At a visit to her primary care physician at Community, Janet expressed how stressed she was and how it was affecting her mental health. Immediately, she was connected with Community’s resource team, specifically Rakuya, an attorney who works for Community’s medical-legal team, which helps patients overcome external legal challenges affecting their well-being. The service is made possible thanks to donors to the Foundation.

Rakuya spoke to Janet’s apartment complex and stopped the $50 late fee before her next payment was due. She also contacted the student loan company and negotiated a moratorium for Janet for the next three years.

“She went to bat for me,” Janet says. “The referral from my primary care doctor’s team to the medical-legal team was a godsend. They have removed a horrendous burden from my life and made my life lighter.”

For Janet, the support that Community offered—from clinical expertise that helped her survive cancer to legal advice that helped her stay afloat financially—has helped to preserve her dignity and allowed for some stability in her life.

“I feel so blessed,” she says. “They have made me feel like I have a chance to stay on and deal with this.”

In 2018, Community’s Medical Legal Partnership served 221 patients at Community East and Community South. With additional support, we can reach more patients in their time of need.