One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for April 2020

Meet Your Neighbor: Illinois Legal Aid Online

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(<Special thanks to Terri Ross and Marcin Gulik of Illinois Legal Aid Online for their time and insights)

One of the consequences of COVID-19 has been an increased reliance on legal assistance around issues like unemployment, immigration, and landlord/tenant issues. Engaging the legal system can be intimidating, and language barriers can make the process even more difficult. After creating a Spanish-language version of their site, Illinois Legal Aid Online recently launched Pomoc Prawna IL, a legal information site geared for Polish-speaking individuals in Chicago. We were fortunate enough to speak to Terri Ross, ILAO’s Executive Director, and Marcin Gulik, their Digital Media Director, about the site.

Teri Ross, Executive Director, Illinois Legal Aid Online

Teri Ross, Executive Director, Illinois Legal Aid Online

Founded in 2001, Illinois Legal Aid Online provides a library of forms and resources to help people navigate the legal system and make the process less daunting. Many people rarely engage in the legal system directly for a variety of reasons. Some people may be unaware of their rights, and others may find the legal system intimidating with its own unique culture and language. ILAO handles a wide variety of legal issues, including family law, unemployment policy, divorce, landlord/tenant issues (ILAO is one of the agencies behind Rentervention), and immigration concerns. In 2012, ILAO developed a Spanish-language version of their site to better meet the needs of the Latinx community in Chicago. Polish Americans are the second largest population in the area, spread out across key Chicago neighborhoods (like Garfield Ridge and Durning) as well as major suburbs (like Naperville, Tinley Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, and Desplaines). Like Spanish-speaking individuals, Polish-speaking individuals in Chicago have a unique set of specific legal issues that Pomoc Prawna works to address.

Launched in June 2019, Pomoc Prawna IL took an assertive approach in engaging the greater community to guide the site’s development. Initially starting with community interviews and observation, ILAO determined what the community needed and what specific barriers/issues Polish-speaking Chicagoans faced on a regular basis. (One great example is that initially, Polish-Americans were concerned with immigration issues, but are facing more employment-based legal issues in the wake of COVID-19).


As Pomoc Prawna IL was developed, volunteers provided testing and feedback which guided how the site was developed. Usability drives site development in terms of ease of finding information as well as the friendliness and intuitive nature of the site. Given ILAO’s extensive library of information and resources, Pomoc Prawna IL wishes to be more than just a simple translation of materials but a more organic resource for an underserved community. As part of maintaining the site, ILAO continues to solicit feedback from Polish-speaking communities throughout Illinois around the site’s usefulness and identifying service gaps.

As a third-generation Polish-American, I grew up with an awareness that there were some huge differences between me and my grandparents in terms of the larger culture. (It also helps that my father was an attorney). Although Chicago has a rich history involving its Polish community (including the Polish Military Medical Team working with the Illinois National Guard during the current COVID-19 crisis), many cultural issues around engaging legal services still exist. With Pomoc Prawna IL, Illinois Legal Aid Online has made a strong effort to address these issues, as well as provide a well-needed resource during these turbulent times.

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And as always, thanks for reading!


Telehealth: A Critical Tool in the Wake of Coronavirus

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2016.04.06 Digital Health Howcove - Telehealth 00108

This photo, “2016.04.06 Digital Health Howcove – Telehealth 00108” is copyright (c) 2016 Ted Eytan via Flickr and made available under an Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has allowed people to engage their primary care physicians remotely while practicing social distancing. With recent changes to FCC and Federal Medicaid/Medicare policy, telehealth is now gaining greater traction and attention. With a recent West Monroe Partners study finding that although 80% of hospitals in the U.S. have some sort of telehealth service, only 18% of 1,000 Chicago residents surveyed used telemedicine services in the past year (and that 73% are open to using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits), we talked to Nathan Ray, director in West Monroe Partners’ Healthcare & Life Sciences practice, about the background of their study and why telehealth services are a critical tool.

Ubuntu-Powered Toughbook - Net Neutrality

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Telehealth services provide physicians the opportunity to more effectively engage and maintain patient relationships as well as provide preventative and treatment options. For example, someone who has initial symptoms of a cold can contact their physician remotely rather than wait until there is a need for in-person intervention. (Triage for coronavirus is one service that can be performed via telehealth services. ) Certain specialized fields like dentistry are great opportunities for telehealth services; fourteen to fifteen (14 – 15) percent of emergency room visits are based on dental emergencies and would be easily preventable through early telehealth intervention. Preventative measures and interventions (like a remote session with a dermatologist about skin issues) become easier for patients through telehealth, and behavioral and mental health issues can be more easily addressed through telehealth services.  (One great example are  telepsychiatry services recently implemented by the Chicago Department of Public Health).

According to Nathan Ray, Medicaid and Medicare will allow providers to bill and be reimbursed for any type of encounter with patients where health issues can be monitored without the need for an inpatient visit, including physical and behavioral health encounters. Prior to the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, only a few providers were early adopters of telehealth, with many physicians considering it a potential future strategy. There are currently no standard tools or platforms for telehealth as many providers are using readily available online communication tools to provide services, and this can potentially remove barriers to people engaging specific health services (Dental hygienists in rural areas could share charts with remote dentists to provide greater access to patients and lower costs). As more people are stuck in their homes due to coronavirus/COVID-19, telehealth services “reduces the friction” of seeing their physician (as Nathan explained) and lowers the overall cost of primary care visits.


From March 4 to March 16, West Monroe Partners surveyed 1,000 residents in the metropolitan Chicago area (as well as residents in Seattle and Minneapolis) around their use of telehealth services. (Links to infographics are provided) All three cities showed similar results: approximately one out of five residents had used telehealth services, and four out of five would consider using telehealth services. As Nathan Ray explained, physicians who provide telehealth services can not only engage in more preventative measures but also facilitate greater engagement by reducing overall resistance and removing key barriers such as taking time from work and travel expenses. With federal legislation empowering Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services, private and employer-based insurance providers may follow as they observe how Medicaid providers adopt and develop policies around telehealth reimbursement.

Even outside of the current coronavirus/COVID-19 panic, telehealth provides a great opportunity to foster greater engagement and interaction between patients and their primary care providers. With Chicago’s current stay-at-home policy in place, many people rely on telehealth providers as a way to maintain their relationship with their physician, but also as a critical self-care strategy. As my recent conversation with Nathan Ray of West Monroe Partners reveals, telehealth is not only just a critical tool; it also has the potential to shape how health care resources are used. With its potential to reduce resistance towards engaging primary care providers, telehealth has the potential to facilitate a deeper, more productive relationship between patients and their physicians.

Especially after the current crisis ends.

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As always, thanks for writing!

Written by gordondym

April 8, 2020 at 11:22 am