Doctors & Lawyers for Kids marks one year anniversary

Assisted 110 families in its first year

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids has concluded its first full year by representing 110 low-income families in the areas of housing, utilities, income supports, education, legal status and family safety and stability.

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids is a partnership of Legal Aid Society, Louisville Bar Association and University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics. Its mission is to connect the medical and legal professions to address legal needs that affect the health and welfare of children and their families.

“The goal of a medical-legal partnership is to identify and resolve a legal need before it becomes a crisis, which is the point at which most folks realize they need legal help,” said Martha J. Hasselbacher, president of Doctors & Lawyers for Kids.

“The issues these providers encounter bear that out. For example, they are referring families whose unsafe apartments pose a health risk to their children, not just families who are being evicted,” Hasselbacher added.

In fact, one-third of Doctors & Lawyers for Kids’ cases concern inadequate rental housing.

Tyra Merriweather, the mother of a 4-year-old boy with persistent asthma problems worsened by mold, roaches and mice, could not get permission from Metro Housing Authority to move to a different apartment.

“I tried everything and they wouldn’t do anything for us. The doctor’s office took action because he kept getting sick. The lawyer said she would take legal action and we were finally able to move to an apartment down the street,” she said. “He’s better now. We haven’t had any problems.”

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids works by integrating attorneys into the medical team. Doctors and social workers at University of Louisville Pediatrics and Kosair Children’s Hospital learn to identify legal needs that affect patient health and refer them to the free program for patients in need.

“Because our clients have a wide array of legal needs, we rely on a strong network of pro bono attorneys to provide high-quality legal service,” said Jeffrey A. Been, executive director of the Legal Aid Society and vice president and treasurer of Doctors & Lawyers for Kids. “Legal Aid has developed a curriculum of Continuing Legal Education courses for volunteer attorneys who become involved in the program.”

“Doctors & Lawyers For Kids has enabled me, as a pediatrician, to assist patients with multiple housing and education issues that I was unable to address in this kind of detail before. The parents’ eyes light up when I let them know that help is down the hall,” said Becky Carothers, M.D., medical director of University of Louisville Children and Youth Project and Doctors & Lawyers for Kids.

Additional 2012 Highlights
Originally piloted at UofL Children and Youth Project, Doctors & Lawyers for Kids was rolled out to Kosair Children’s Hospital and to two additional UofL Pediatrics primary care clinics in 2012.

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids became a public service placement of UofL Brandeis School of Law. Nine students have signed up to volunteer, thus far.

Five organizations supported the program with $60,000 in donations: Gheens Foundation; Children’s Hospital Foundation; Kentucky Bar Foundation; Louisville Bar Foundation; University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics.

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