Case Western Reserve University, UH launch partnership to offer guidance on legal issues
Case Western Reserve University School of Law and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital have formed a partnership to guide families and pediatric patient caregivers on legal issues beyond the scope of clinical care that affect children's health, according to a news release.
The Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP), which is part of Case's Law-Medicine Center's innovative experiential education curriculum, will offer training, education, advocacy and individual representation on non-medical legal issues
Nearly 300 healthcare institutions in 41 states have developed these partnerships, according to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. The agreement will provide both in-hospital legal guidance for patients and caregivers, as well as experiential learning for law students.
For UH, the MLP — one of various programs the system is piloting ahead of the opening of its new Rainbow Center for Women and Children — is an effort to address patients' needs that may be barriers to getting care or maintaining their health. For Case Western Reserve, it reflects a commitment of the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center at its law school to serve the community's unmet legal needs, according to the release.
"With the MLP, we're not making clients come to us, we're going to them in the healthcare setting," Laura McNally-Levine, law professor and director of the Kramer Law Clinic Center, said in a prepared statement.
McNally-Levine co-developed the partnership with Dr. Marie Clark, developmental-behavioral pediatrician at UH Rainbow and the MLP medical director. Clark trained at Boston Medical Center, home of the nation's first MLP, and later developed a MLP in a previous position in Pittsburgh, according to the release.
Because of MLP's successes elsewhere and the evidence-based need for such services, the two already have plans to expand the program by looking for additional funding and community collaborators in order to reach as many families as possible, according to the release.
The MLP will start at the Rainbow Ambulatory Practice's current location on the UH main campus and will initially focus on families in the Smooth Transitions into Adulthood with UH Rainbow (STAR) Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic to support families of youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Once the new center opens, it will serve families on-site. According to the release, the MLP will transition to helping patients with broad legal matters, from guardianship hearings to providing a child special-education services due to a disability.
"We can treat only so much with the arsenal of medical tools available to us," Clark, who's also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement. "At some point, we need to address the underlying causes of patients' disorders. When we screen for health-harming legal needs, like poor-quality housing and inadequate access to appropriate educational resources, we are now able to refer families to lawyers who are passionate about these issues."
Through the Kramer Clinic's Health Law Clinic, third-year law students can, under faculty supervision, represent children and adults in administrative and court proceedings. So far, 14 law students have enrolled to handle health-law matters this semester through the MLP, according to the release.
As UH Rainbow's director of pediatric innovation, Dr. Claudia Hoyen, was "instrumental" in helping envision how the program could help address social determinants of health at UH Rainbow. Hoyen, Clark's mentor, held an Ohio MedTAPP grant through the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine that funded their work on the project.
"We are most excited to work with our colleagues at the law school to benefit our patients and families, but we also want to foster the academic and research potential of our partnership," Hoyen, an associate professor of pediatrics, said in a prepared statement. "Creating multidisciplinary teams of learners — medical students, residents and fellows — along with law students presents a special opportunity."
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