From Tears to Triumph: How Legal Services Support Better Health Care
Change Maker Sponsor - United Way of Greater Toledo

From Tears to Triumph: How Legal Services Support Better Health Care

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.


Cecilia* couldn’t hold back the tears streaming down her face as she walked out of her son’s doctor’s office.

These appointments were routine for her and four-year-old Ramon*. Since being diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Ramon required ongoing speech and physical therapy, both emotionally and financially overwhelming at times. On top of that, English wasn’t Cecilia’s first language. She primarily conversed in Spanish.

Thus far, despite the language barrier, Cecilia had been able to maintain Ramon’s appointments and get him the care he needed. Yet today, she couldn’t fully understand what the nurses were saying or the incomplete papers they were showing her. The only thing she could grasp was that there was some problem with her insurance coverage. Why weren’t they letting Ramon see his doctor?

In the past, Cecilia had a lot of difficulty communicating with social service departments, which utilized documents and paperwork all written in English. As it turned out, Cecilia had unknowingly missed reporting deadlines for Ramon’s “supplemental security income”, a program that financially assists eligible adults and children with disabilities.

Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC), United Way, Poverty, Health Services, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE)Furthermore, the devastating consequence of the incomplete paperwork continued to haunt Cecilia for six long months—leaving Ramon with significant developmental delays and unable to receive medical care. Luckily, Ramon’s doctor was able to refer Cecilia to the Toledo Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC), who could assist.

Medical-Legal Partnerships are currently active in nearly 300 health care institutions throughout 41 states in the US. Through this local service and in partnership with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), doctors and lawyers work together to identify legal and social issues that negatively impact a child's health and well-being.

Now, all the confusing papers that Cecilia would sprawl across her kitchen table were able to be translated. It was such a weight off her shoulders. She began more clearly understanding what forms needed to be completed, how to complete them and who to deliver them to upon completion.

By accessing community resources, Cecilia was able to come out of tragic situation feeling better and more empowered as a mother.

In time, Cecilia and Ramon’s lawyer appealed the denial of his health care services, which were restored. Additionally, through free legal counseling services, payment was secured for more than $4,000 of medical debt, and Cecilia was transitioned to a “managed care plan” to better meet their family’s overall health needs.

And really, at the end of the day, the true fighter here is Ramon.

With the help of ABLE and Ramon’s MLPC services, he will receive the medical care needed to live a good and full life. So now, every week, when Cecilia leaves the doctor’s office, she isn’t overwhelmed, stressed or in tears. Her attention and focus is right where it's supposed to be—on Ramon.


CHANGE MAKER ACTION: Our program funding for the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children is just one component of United Way’s work to help those in need and expand health equality in the Greater Toledo area. By donating below, you can join us in our fight to stabilize more families facing financial and health crisis’ in our community.

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*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by the Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. on behalf of their United Way funded program, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.


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