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Several days a week at United Family Medicine, professor Ana Pottratz Acosta and a student from Mitchell Hamline School of Law sit in a small, makeshift office, with several chairs, and a dentist-style chair on one side of the room.

Since 2015, they have served more than 300 clients who have visited the United Family Medicine clinic and needed help with legal advice.

“A lot of it is Social Security related, disability insurance, a fair amount of our clients are either homeless or close to homeless,” student Joseph Williamson said. “So even issues like ten dollar filing fees may be a burden they have to overcome and a barrier to them getting into a Social Security program.”

Williamson and other students help clients obtain waivers and making sure the forms are filled out correctly.

In the process, Williamson and other law students learn about all the things that can affect health. For example, they might help a client take on a landlord who isn’t dealing with black mold.

While the students gain experience and knowledge, the clinic benefits, too.

“It was a couple of our providers who noticed the need in the community and were like, ‘Wow, there’s just certain things that we just can’t do as doctors,” said Lisa Stein, director of advancement for United Family Medicine. She says doctors wanted to offer more to patients, who often have to navigate complicated bureaucracies.

The partnership is getting recognition, too. In April, United Family Medicine and Mitchell Hamline received Ramsey County’s Public Health Award.

The health law clinic model isn’t new. In fact, there are about 45 law schools — including the University of Minnesota Law School — doing similar work around the country. This is the only one serving a Ramsey County health care facility.

Sonia Miller-Van Oort is an attorney and current president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. She took part in a legal clinic during law school in Indiana. She says the experience is extremely helpful.

“Clinics are a huge and very important part of a law students’ experience and really put people in a better position to step into the real world of practice,” Miller-Van Oort said.

At the Mitchell Hamline Health Law Clinic, Pottratz Acosta said students end up addressing a variety of issues, such as immigration status.

“What we really have here is a poverty law clinic in a health care setting,” she said. “And the whole idea behind the medical-legal partnership program and the health law clinic is that we are addressing social determinants of health and hopefully improving patient outcomes by addressing those other factors that are going on in their lives.”

She says the clinic gives students an understanding of how all kinds of government policies affect people.

“So you can have a theoretical discussion in class about the legal merits of the travel ban case, but when you’re face to face with someone who is not able to bring a family member into the country because of where they happen to be from, that is a huge difference and really sheds light on the importance of a lot of the things that you’re studying in school,” she said.

For second-year student Julie Le, getting real, in-the-field experience is great. But personal experience also drives her.

“I used to be in their shoes. I used to have to go beg people to help translate,” she said. “I used to be the one sitting on the other side receiving all these benefits. So now it’s a great feeling to be sitting on the other side to help people.”

As students take summer break, Pottratz Acosta said she manages the caseload and intake for the clinic with the help of one student.

By Peter Cox, Minnesota Public Radio



For More Information, Contact:
Lisa Stein, Director of Advancement



Multi-Step Approach to Helping Solve Opioid Crisis And Save Lives

ST. PAUL, MINN. – MARCH 26, 2018 – United Family Medicine, an independent, nonprofit provider of primary health care, mental health, dental, obstetrics, preventative care, and chronic disease management based in St. Paul, today announced a clinic-wide commitment to changing the way they view and treat addiction. United Family Medicine (UFM) is dedicated to helping drive change that reduces the number of individuals struggling with opioid addiction and dying from overdose in Minnesota. The effort includes:

  • Professional training for all providers
  • An immediate focus on tapering the use of opioids in current patients
  • Changing prescribing policies and practices for patients who suffer from chronic pain

These efforts all fall within UFM’s established integrated behavioral health framework.

“Every day, more than 1,000 Minnesotans are treated in emergency rooms for misusing prescription opioids, and nearly 700 Minnesotans die each year from drug overdose,” said Dr. Jonathan Dickman, one of the physician leaders of the opioid response at United Family Medicine. “We must change how we address opioid misuse and addiction to save lives. At United Family Medicine, we address addiction as a chronic disease, not a personal failure. This means a commitment to treating the whole person with ongoing support that addresses physical, behavioral and mental health needs in addition to alternative methods of pain management.”

As an organization with more than seven decades of history helping St. Paul’s most needy residents, United Family Medicine has structured its opioid response initiative to be more accessible to individuals facing high-risk medical and social situations, when a treatment facility is not a viable option. Primary care clinics, like UFM, already provide care for other chronic diseases like diabetes, positioning them to effectively treat the chronic condition of addiction. UFM providers regularly treat patients that require checks between physician appointments while being stabilized. Non-physician team members help with dose monitoring and frequent check-ins by phone or in person. The ability to provide medication-assisted treatment in a clinic setting as opposed to in-patient treatment will allow UFM to help many who wouldn’t otherwise have access.

Core areas of focus include:

Training and education

  • All UFM medical providers, including the 21 Family Medicine Residents (future providers), will become certified in prescribing Suboxone, which eliminates cravings for heroin or pain pills. It has a track record of success for easing withdrawal from opioid dependence but requires frequent check-in visits, drug monitoring tests, and prescription refills for months or even years.
  • Providers will leverage UFM’s existing integrated behavioral health infrastructure to support patients’ ongoing behavioral and mental health needs.
  • Educational resources on trauma-informed care, suicide prevention, and opioid abuse, including the use of live and virtual self-management resources.

Change in policies and practices for treating patients with chronic pain

  • Change prescribing practices to prescribe opioids less often, prescribe lower doses and for shorter periods of time.
  • Implement evidence-based practices with a focus on medication-assisted treatment combined with psychosocial therapies and counseling.
  • Opioid Safety Clinic — a new multidisciplinary clinic composed of two UFM physicians, mental health professionals, nurses, and care coordinators.
  • As a primary care clinic, UFM specializes in on-going chronic disease care like diabetes, for example. Providers have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with patients, creating a safe and trusting environment. This approach will be applied to treat the chronic condition of addiction.
  • The UFM integrated behavioral health approach will be supported by a robust referral process to outside addiction treatment services for patients as needed.

Community Outreach

  • Long-term commitment to creating needed recovery support and community response systems through partnerships with organizations, rehabilitation facilities, half-way houses and other health care providers throughout the community to not only provide primary health care services during treatment and ongoing support post-rehabilitation, but also to work upstream from the epidemic.

“Through training and a holistic program that treats the addiction, the behavior and addresses the mental health of each patient, we’re confident we can change the devastating affect opioids have had on Minnesotans,” said Dr. Tim Rumsey, Community Health Liaison and Physician at United Family Medicine. “Dr. Dickman is leading United Family Medicine in this focused effort. We are committed to meeting the needs of the community and making a difference in the lives of people suffering from the chronic condition of opioid addiction.”

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Dickman, Dr. Rumsey and other clinical experts, Dr. Joel Giffin, Dr. Ravi Balasubrahmanyan, and Dawn Brothers, PA, are available to speak in detail about United Family Medicine’s new opioid treatment initiative. An FAQ about the program is also available at: UnitedFamilyMedicine.org/in-the-news/opioid-response-faq

About United Family Medicine
United Family Medicine is an independent, nonprofit provider of primary health care, mental health, dental, obstetrics, disease screening, preventative care, chronic disease management, with on-site lab and x-ray facilities, plus guided access to local pharmacy discount programs, social services, legal counsel and interpreter services.
Each year, UFM clinicians work with more than 14,000 patients. The mission of United Family Medicine is to meet the needs of the medically uninsured, underinsured and underserved residents. For more information, visit: UnitedFamilyMedicine.org



July 25, 2016
United Family Medicine
Lisa Stein

Healthy West 7th: United Family Medicine Hosts a Community Health Celebration
West Seventh Community Clinic to Celebrate National Health Center Week By Bringing The Community Together

SAINT PAUL –Free, fun health-focused activities, live music and delicious food. Fun for the whole family. That’s what you’ll find at United Family Medicine’s inaugural Healthy West 7th Block Party Thursday, August 11th from 4:00 to 8:00PM at 1026 West 7th Street in Saint Paul. UFM will be showcasing their many programs and partnership with community organizations and businesses in the West 7th neighborhood and beyond. The event will also include free blood pressure checks and dental cleanings.

“United Family Medicine is excited to launch the Healthy West 7th Block Party with the support and participation from organizations and business in our community, highlighting the many ways we are working together to build a healthier neighborhood and community,” said Brian Nasi, CEO of UFM.

UFM is grateful for the support and sponsorship from Allina Health, Delta Dental of Minnesota, the American Cancer Society and Dermatology Consultants. Thanks to their generous support, the Healthy West 7th Block Party, which will take place during National Health Center Week, is free and open to the public.

In 2003, a small health clinic nearing its seventh decade of serving patients from underserved populations made a big decision. United Family Medicine became an independent, non-profit organization, leaving the large umbrella of Allina Health.

Thirteen years later, the comprehensive family health care clinic occupies its own facility at the corner of Randolph and West Seventh streets, helped revitalize a changing Saint Paul neighborhood, and earned national recognition for its quality care. A designated Federally Qualified Health Clinic, it has expanded its care offerings to include dental services and optometry, and through all of these changes, it has stayed true to its mission – To Serve and To Teach. For two years in a row, the United State Department of Health and Human Services has recognized UFM for exceeded national clinical quality benchmarks, a recognition given to just 61 clinics in the country

“We are extremely proud of our providers and staff who not only ensure the highest quality of care but demonstrate deep compassion and dedication to each of our patients every single day,” said Mr. Nasi.

For more information about the activities being offered by UFM and partners during the Healthy West 7th Block Party, visit the clinic’s website at www.unitedfamilymedicine.org/events or find and “Like” the clinic on Facebook.

At community clinics, underinsured replace uninsured


United Family Medicine

United Family Medicine