Mayor’s Notes: Legal Aid Improves Community Health | Opinion

A job loss, health crisis, domestic violence or divorce can often be the event that catapults a person into a situation requiring legal assistance. Such events can create financial hardship and make it very difficult to hire a lawyer.

In civil cases like these, people who cannot afford to be represented by a lawyer are not assigned a lawyer as is the case in criminal cases. However, legal aid is an option.

Working together, 603 Legal Aid and NH Legal Assistance (NHLA) provide residents across the state with access to legal advice, benefiting both individuals and the communities in which they reside.

According to the 2020 NH Campaign for Legal Services Annual Report, 603 legal aid workers and NHLA have helped more than 16,000 state residents stay in their homes, obtain child support, and access benefits and services. essential. Their work has impacted children, families, the elderly, people with disabilities and veterans. The direct financial impact on those served by 603 Legal Aid and NHLA totaled $ 2.6 million, including child support, alimony, unemployment and disability benefits. By providing financial stability to many households, communities have also achieved many benefits. More dollars flowed into local economies, the potential for homelessness declined, and health outcomes improved.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock (DH) recognizes the impact that access to legal aid can have on the health of the population. This year, DH and NHLA launched a two-year pilot program to provide legal assistance to families with young children in the Upper Valley, including those in Sullivan County. Funded by the NH Charitable Foundation, Couch Family Foundation and DH, the program started in September and will run until August 2023.

Families with young children who are patients at certain DH pilot sites will be eligible to participate in the program. Families may receive help for “unhealthy legal needs” such as substandard housing or problems accessing food stamps. Providing legal assistance to young families that guarantees benefits, housing and employment creates financial stability, which is essential for good health outcomes in a child during the early years of development. Not only does this equate to better academic outcomes for the child, but also for school districts which are measured by student performance.

The healthiest and most prosperous communities are those in which people have equitable access to resources when they are needed. The global pandemic has disrupted the labor market, contributed to housing insecurity and created many health problems. Such disruption only increased the need for legal assistance. The good news is that the legal aid community is ready to help people access their legal benefits and services.

Anyone living in New Hampshire who has a low income and needs legal aid can seek help by contacting 603 Legal Aid by phone or online. Legal Aid 603 is the central entry point for anyone seeking legal aid. To apply, visit nhlegalaid.org or call 603-224-3333.

To learn more about the NHLA, visit nhla.org.

Charlene Lovett is the mayor of Claremont and awaits your comments. Please email your questions, comments or concerns to him at [email protected]


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