Medical-Legal Partnership for Children created
The Marguerite d’Youville Foundation awarded more than $200,000 to a program that will serve the legal needs of low-income children and their families by providing proactive legal assistance in a health care setting.
The Toledo Medical Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC), a collaborative effort spearheaded by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO), and St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center Mercy Children’s Hospital (MCH) will work together with other healthcare professionals and organizations to address the full continuum of children’s needs, including housing, food, education, and healthcare.
According to Laurie Pangle, president of the boards of trustees for LAWO and ABLE, the unmet need for legal services in Lucas County is substantial. “This partnership is just one more way legal aid can reach out to the community and help people obtain legal services.” The Toledo MLPC will begin providing services at St. Vincent’s Family Care Center in early 2007.
“Although pediatricians are critical sources of preventive intervention for families, healthcare professionals are not traditionally prepared to address social or legal determinants of child health,” explains Pangle. “Attorneys may be in the best position to help families understand the legal remedies available to them to ensure their children have basic needs met to improve their health.”
Currently, three legal aid attorneys are slated to work with healthcare professionals to address the full continuum of children’s needs, including housing, food, education and healthcare. Plans to help educate doctors, nurses and social workers about the legal problems experienced by families with sick children are an integral part of the program.
Legal aid attorneys working with the program will help families obtain disability and unemployment benefits, help with housing problems and landlord/tenant disputes, and address special education issues children face.
Funding from the St. Marguerite d’Youville Foundation will cover the costs of employing two full-time attorneys during the two year grant, creating an evaluation system and other matters related to startup.
The MLPC receives technical assistance from the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children at Boston Medical Center, which serves as a model for local affiliates nationwide. Legal aid will be adding two additional attorneys through its AmeriCorps Homelessness Prevention Program, a part of the statewide Ohio Community Services Council.
Other partners in the MLCP include: the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, the Medical University of Ohio (MUO) Department of Pediatrics, Mental Health and Recovery Services of Lucas County, and Toledo Children’s Hospital.
“We’re excited about launching this innovative program in Toledo,” says Elizabeth Ruppert, M.D., one of the community leaders spearheading the Toledo MLPC. “We have gathered a dynamic group of community resources and individuals who are committed to seeing this project move forward to benefit the children in our community,” she adds.
ABLE and LAWO are Ohio non-profit law firms that provide legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups achieve equal justice and economic opportunity.