People who face utility shutoffs are more likely to also experience poor health, hospitalization, and concerns about their children’s development. And these strains worsen as energy prices rise.
in a new studyYale researchers set out to better understand what other stressors families experience energy insecurity encounters — and make the case for the value of a model known as medical-legal partnerships in addressing them.
Most US states have laws that protect people from the shutoff of utilities — such as water, sewer, and electricity — when these services are deemed necessary to prevent life-threatening medical conditions, often requiring a certificate signed by a physician. For the study, published Oct. 13 in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers surveyed families with children who had received such a certificate about other health-related social needs.
They found that most families surveyed also faced food, housing, and financial insecurity. Most owed arrearages for utility bills, ranging from less than $500 to more than $20,000. Nearly all said their utility shutoff certificates were helpful.
Understanding how often these stressors co-occur, the researchers said, is key to ensuring they can be addressed. And medical-legal partnerships — which situation legal services within health care settings and provide essential legal support for meeting health-related social needs — can play a big role in that effort.
Study authors Julia Rosenbergan assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, and Alice Rosenthalan attorney with nonprofit law firm the Center for Children’s Advocacy and head of its medical legal partnership at Yale New Haven Hospital, sat down with Yale News to discuss the challenge, the benefit of medical-legal partnerships, and the importance of understanding health- related social needs.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What are medical-legal partnerships and what services do they provide?
Alice Rosenthal: The