Summarize your idea/solution?
My Legal Needs is a web-based needs assessment app that helps LGBT and non-binary persons identify their medical-legal needs and that increases a local nonprofit's capacity to address those needs.
Describe your idea and how it addresses the challenge?
Using plain language, My Legal Needs guides users through questions designed to spot medical-legal issues that are particularly important for members of the LGBT and non-binary community, while also providing information to teach users about the issues. At the end of the process, My Legal Needs summarizes the identified medical-legal needs for the user, notifies a local legal services organization of the user's interest in services, and provides the organization with the same summary of the user's needs.
My Legal Needs is designed to address three access to justice challenges.
First, members of the LGBT and non-binary community have unique medical-legal needs that often differ from those of the general population. These needs can include paying for thirty prescription medications related to an HIV diagnosis and changing one's name and gender marker on identity documents. As a result, common medical-legal needs assessment apps (sometimes referred to as legal check-up apps) are typically not well-suited for members of this community.
Second, because the medical-legal needs of members of the LGBT and non-binary community are unique and complex, addressing them is a highly individualized endeavor that typically requires the assistance of an attorney. For example, determining which Medicare Part D plans someone is eligible for, and then evaluating which plan is best for that person, may require analyzing more than thirty different factors while also exercising professional judgment. As a result, these needs are not well-suited to an application format that aims to eliminate the need for an attorney altogether.
Third, the capacity of LGBT medical and legal service providers to meet all of the community’s needs is limited, particularly by constraints on time and money.
My Legal Needs addresses each of these three challenges: the app is specifically designed for members of this community; the app does not attempt to eliminate attorneys altogether, but rather connects users to an attorney at the appropriate time; and the app educates users and collects the information the attorney will need later on, so the attorney has more time to address the user's needs.
How would your idea serve a local community?
To understand how this idea will serve a local community, it is important to understand the status quo. My partner on this project is Whitman-Walker Health (“Whitman-Walker”), a Washington, D.C., community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS care and lesbian, gay, bisexual, non-binary, and transgender care.
Every October, Whitman-Walker conducts a Medicare Part D enrollment drive, for which Whitman-Walker mails approximately 1,200 packets to D.C.-area clients to encourage them to schedule a meeting with a Whitman-Walker attorney to review the client’s Medicare Part D coverage and ensure they have the best coverage for their needs. Each packet includes a one-page Medicare Part D intake form, which primarily asks clients to list all of their prescription medications; clients are asked to complete this form before their meeting with an attorney. Ultimately, approximately 350 clients meet with a staff or pro bono attorney through Whitman-Walker for this purpose.
Each mailed packet includes a one-page Medicare Part D intake form, which primarily asks clients to list all of their prescription medications; clients are asked to complete this form before their meeting with an attorney. Even if the client brings the completed form, the attorney must still conduct additional data collection at the beginning of each meeting. After completing the data collection, the attorney spends the rest of the meeting talking with the client about their healthcare and medication needs, going over the Medicare Part D options available to the client, and going over the process of enrolling the client in the best Medicare Part D option for them.
At this point, the time for the meeting is over, and the attorney does not have sufficient time to conduct an assessment of the client’s other possible medical or legal needs, which would necessarily include providing explanations of several legal concepts and explaining why these concepts and needs may be important for the client.
The Medicare Part D enrollment drive is the largest single legal outreach effort conducted by Whitman-Walker each year, and therefore it presents an ideal access point for increased needs-assessment and service delivery. My Legal Needs capitalizes on this opportunity.
When Whitman-Walker conducts its Medicare Part D enrollment drive this October, Whitman-Walker will direct clients to complete My Legal Needs instead of a paper intake form. My Legal Needs do the data collection work previously done on the paper intake form and during the meeting, as well as assess the client’s other medical-legal needs, educate the client about legal issues, and provide a summary of these needs to both the client and to Whitman-Walker (with the client’s permission)--tasks that would take a prohibitively long time if it needed to be done by the attorney while meeting with a client. As a result, attorneys and clients will be able to address multiple medical-legal needs during a single meeting.
Who will use the solution?
Users of My Legal Needs will be members of the LGBT and non-binary community in Washington, D.C. Outreach surrounding the app will occur primarily through Whitman-Walker’s Medicare Part D enrollment drive in October, but Whitman-Walker will also be able to direct clients to use the app for needs assessment at other times throughout the year.
For now, My Legal Needs is limited to the Washington, D.C., area, because many aspects of the issue-spotting are locale-specific, including what Medicare Part D plans exist, what public benefits programs exist, what the eligibility rules are for various public benefits programs, and what the process is for changing one’s legal name and gender marker. Additionally, a key part of My Legal Needs is that users will eventually need to meet with an attorney, so having a connection to a local organization that provides legal services to members of this community is essential. However, it is possible that My Legal Needs could be expanded to serve members of LGBT and non-binary communities in other geographies in the future.
What makes your solution unique, innovative, and impactful?
My Legal Needs is unique, innovative, and impactful, because it meets users where they are, it meets the attorneys of Whitman-Walker where they are, and it does the work to connect the two, thereby enabling both to benefit.
Whitman-Walker Health Clinic
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