The Family Health Centers, Inc. has joined the Doctors & Lawyers for Kids in a medical-legal partnership. Doctors & Lawyers for Kids now offers free civil legal aid to improve the health and well-being of children and families seen at Family Health Centers – Portland. FHC received grant funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support this new initiative to help address patients’ complex social needs that can impact health.
“Many of the patients we care for have problems that extend past medicine into the legal realm that we are just not equipped to handle,” states Bill Wagner, CEO of Family Health Centers. “As a health care organization that focuses on the whole-person, we cannot ignore issues such as eviction notices or custody cases, especially if these situations are preventing you from being able to take care of yourself or your family.”
Doctors & Lawyers for Kids is a joint project of the Legal Aid Society, the Louisville Bar Association and UofL Pediatrics. Since the partnership was formed in 2012, more than 300 patients from University of Louisville general and subspecialty pediatrics practices and Kosair Children’s Hospital have been provided with free, health-related legal counseling referred during their routine doctor visits.
“This new partnership extends our ability to reach our community’s most vulnerable children,” says Martha Hasselbacher, president, Doctors & Lawyers for Kids. “Sometimes it takes more than a doctor’s care and a prescription to insure good health. We train health care providers to recognize patients’ legal issues so that we can help resolve them early, before a family is in crisis, before a family ends up living in a car, before a toddler burns his hand on the stove because there is no heat, before a child who is not getting legally-required school services gives up and drops out.”
Beginning in January 2016, the Doctors & Lawyers for Kids legal staff will spend two to three days a week in the Family Health Center – Portland. Providers will identify legal needs that affect patients’ health, refer patients to the attorneys on-site, and the attorneys will address those needs, participating as part of the medical team.
Typical cases will include:
Income Supports Child support, SSI/SDI, Medicaid, wage garnishment, bankruptcy
Housing & Utilities Unsafe housing conditions, eviction, foreclosure, utilities shut off, Section 8, public housing
Education & Childcare Special education, bullying, individualized education plans
Legal Status Refugee status, naturalization, emergency visas, government benefits, eligibility issues
Personal Safety & Stability Child custody/support, guardianship, domestic violence orders, divorce
Personal injury, medical malpractice and criminal cases will not be taken. Cases are either handled on site by Doctors & Lawyers for Kids legal staff, or by volunteer lawyers from the community who provide free legal services for our clients through the Louisville Pro Bono Consortium.
Doctors & Lawyers for Kids was conceived in 2009 when the Louisville Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society tapped Hasselbacher, a retired general counsel at Norton Healthcare, professor of Health Law at the UofL Brandeis School of Law, and past president of the Louisville Bar Association and Legal Aid Society, to look into a medical-legal partnership for the Louisville community.
“While popular culture portrays doctors and lawyers as adversaries, we can be a powerful force for our community’s neediest when we work together,” she said. “Adding the Family Health Centers to our team makes us even more accessible to the indigent in our community.”