June 1, 2012
ATLANTA – Members of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) presented at seven sessions at the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership’s 7th annual summit entitled "Medical-Legal Partnership: Innovative Solutions for a Healthier Community," held March 26-27 in San Antonio, Texas. The summit brought together policymakers and leaders from the fields of law, medicine, nursing, social work, and public health to discuss best practices and share new ideas around medical-legal partnerships.
The summit focused on building capacity and promoting sustainable community-based organizations. Professor Sylvia Caley, Director of HeLP and Co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University, presented at several sessions. "Strengthening partnerships with health care providers and community stakeholders will lead to more opportunities to leverage resources and coordinate services," she said.
Caley also presented on how law schools are uniquely situated to host MLPs. "Students and clients benefit from MLPs housed at law schools," she observed. "Participation in the clinic provides students the opportunity for experiential learning outside of the traditional classroom model. Clients receive coordinated services from a multi-disciplinary team working to address their health-related needs."
Sessions at the summit addressed a wide range of legal issues that impact health that MLPs may encounter. Emily Suski, HeLP Clinical Supervising Attorney, presented an overview of federal special education law. "The session facilitated conversation between doctors, lawyers, and social workers about how they can work together meaningfully to improve health and education outcomes for children," she stated.
Scott Hart, a private attorney who provides pro bono services to HeLP, and HeLP staff attorney Allison Stiles discussed legal strategies that can be used to address housing conditions that impact health in their presentation. "Poor housing conditions are a frequent cause of adverse health outcomes for low income patients," Stiles said. "Assistance often focuses on crisis management. However, proactive legal measures can be employed to avoid negative health effects and eviction."
Another session, at which HeLP staff attorney Payal Kapoor and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Dr. Roshni Patel spoke, addressed the importance of family stability. "Through a heart transplant HeLP case study, we were able to show how members of the health care team and their partners can become better patient advocates by identifying where family stability is critical to the health and well-being of the patient," said Kapoor. "Lawyers and health care professionals can collaborate to save lives through MLPs which can be critical in assuring positive health outcomes for children," Patel added.
Together with Dr. Robert Pettignano, HeLP’s medical champion and Director of Medical Affairs at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding, Patel and Caley also presented on the use of social media with MLPs. "Tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be important mechanisms for sharing the message of MLPs and for effectively reaching out to potential funders, policy makers, and partners," acknowledged Caley.
Pettignano credited these presentations with continuing to raise awareness of HeLP in the MLP community as a model program. "Not only did we participate in these offerings, we interacted with many of the new partnerships that asked to tap into our significant and recognized expertise," he said.
Stacie P. Kershner, JD
Associate Director, Center for Law, Health & Society