March 30, 2011
ATLANTA -- Professor Sylvia B. Caley, Director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP), convened its sixth annual retreat, which was held on January 28. These annual day-long retreats offer all the partner representatives, staff, and the Advisory Council Chair an opportunity to review the successes and activities of the previous year and to discuss the challenges and priorities for the upcoming year.
"There is always a packed agenda with a lot to review and discuss," said Caley. "These retreats are highly productive ways to ensure that we are staying on track with our mission and goals, to identify priority areas for development for the next year, and to engage in strategic planning."
HeLP is an innovative interdisciplinary community collaboration between health care providers and lawyers to improve the health and well-being of low-income children and their families by addressing the multiple determinants affecting children’s health. The partnering organizations are Georgia State University’s College Law, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which operates three tertiary care children’s hospitals in Atlanta.
HeLP is also an educational partnership to promote the public’s health through interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Through the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State Law, which is co-directed by Caley and Professor Lisa R. Bliss, law students work with medical students and residents from Emory and Morehouse medical schools and other health-related graduate and professional students in nursing, public health, and social work to learn how to deliver a comprehensive set of services to address the many social, economic, and environmental factors that can adversely impact children’s health.
In addition to its legal services and educational programs, HeLP has an advocacy component and a research and evaluation component. "Given the interdisciplinary and the multi-faceted nature of HeLP, it’s a complex partnership that requires a high degree of cooperation and collaboration among the partners," said Bliss. She and Caley were both recently approved for promotion to the rank of Associate Clinical Professor at Georgia State Law and were awarded long-term contracts.
HeLP also serves as a model demonstration project for medical-legal partnerships nationally. "Our HeLP office at Children’s at Hughes Spalding hospital was honored in 2010 as a ’Best Practice’ by The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals nationally," said Robert Pettignano, MD, FAAP, FCCM, MBA, who is HeLP’s "medical champion" at Children’s. Pettignano is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory’s School of Medicine and Director of Medical Affairs at Children’s at Hughes Spalding.
Susan A. McLaren, MPH, FACHE, is a health services researcher who is the independent evaluator for HeLP and prepares its annual report. "HeLP accomplished a lot in this past year. They handled a record number of client cases (614 active cases) and expanded significantly the educational opportunities for interdisciplinary graduate and professional students in the metro area," said McLaren. "Continued challenges for HeLP include securing on-going funding, meeting demand for services based on funding options, and demonstrating the impact of HeLP services on the health status of the families served and the cost savings to the hospital system."
A strategic action plan was developed for next year as an outgrowth of the annual retreat and McLaren’s report. The plan includes priorities for continuing to diversify the Advisory Council, improving data collection, securing adequate funding to sustain operations, supporting the health and well-being of all those who work at HeLP, identifying research and scholarship opportunities, and promoting program awareness among leadership groups at Children’s and with the public.
For more information about HeLP, see http://www.healthlawpartnership.org/. You can also follow HeLP on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/HeLP-Health-Law-Partnership/130893020275419.