There is another level of trauma survivors of Chicago violence can face, and it goes beyond physical injuries. You can also lose public benefits, such as food stamps, while you spend weeks or months in the hospital recovering.
Enter Carly Laurent, an attorney at Legal Aid Chicago. She is participating in a new initiative at her UChicago Medicine in Hyde Park. This initiative aims to assist victims of violence, such as those who have been shot or stabbed, with their civil legal needs.
She is teaming up with violence recovery specialists from the University of Chicago School of Medicine who have already established rapport with patients and provide healing support. They screen people to see if they need the help of Legal Aid Chicago. They then introduce them to Laurent.
“Patients are waiting for me when I’m in the hospital, and they know I’m associated with a program they already trust,” said Loughran. “The interaction would be very different if lawyers were sober, especially among people who are given every reason to distrust lawyers in the legal system.”
UChicago Medicine recently launched this program called Recovery Legal Care. The program aims to not only provide medical care, but also address social and economic wounds, said Dr. Tanya Zakrison, a trauma surgeon at UChicago Medicine.
“We can help people physically recover,” said Zachrison. “But how do we address this justice gap?”
Zachrison said many gunshot wound patients live in black and Latinx communities that have long been economically disadvantaged. Helping keep the social and economic fabric of life intact, such as jobs, housing, and food stamps, can help prevent future violence, she said.
Over the past five years, the trauma center has treated over 20,000 adults and children. According to UChicago Medicine, about 40% of patients have stab wounds, such as gunshot wounds and stab wounds.
Throughout the program’s first pilot phase, Loughran spends Thursdays at the trauma center meeting patients at his bedside. She assures them that she will return, as she sees the potential to develop long-term relationships with some patients beyond hospitalization. You can potentially spend months on patient needs that may not exist.
“Lawyers are like social workers with teeth,” says Loughran.
For example, a typical social worker might help a patient fill out an application for food stamps, but if the application is denied, they cannot represent the person in court. I can do it.
The same is true if the landlord tries to evict the patient. Loughran is their legal backer. Some patients may not know that state law allows them to obtain reimbursement to cover costs resulting from violent crimes. Loughran can help with that process, too.
She also trains violence recovery professionals on how to help patients complete public interest forms.
A second attorney from Legal Aid Chicago will join the project next week. We plan to add 1 supervising attorney and 1-2 paralegals.
Recovery Legal Care is funded primarily through $2.6 million in federal grants to trauma centers and covers a five-year program. The initiative will initially focus on adult trauma patients. Zachrison said the goal is to expand to children and adolescents.
Researchers plan to study the effectiveness of the program. They want to know the extent to which addressing the social and economic needs of patients affects their overall well-being, particularly preventing future gun violence from affecting patients and their families. I’m here.
Kristen Schorsch is the WBEZ for Public Health and Cook County.