We knew it would come to this …. lawyers in the doctors’ offices.

But Doctors & Lawyers for Kids, a collaboration between University of Louisville Pediatrics, the Louisville Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, is billed as a more wholistic way in tackling the socio-economic issues such as parental custody – along with the physiological problems – threatening children in low-income settings.

In the collaboration, doctors seek underlying reasons for children’s illnesses, then may refer them as needed to an in-house legal team that includes a full-time lawyer and part-time paralegal. The collaboration meant to address social, economic and environmental issues, according to a news release.

From the release:

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids helps with a wide range of problems for indigent patients, including public benefits as well as those related to housing, custody, immigration and tax issues. The medical-legal partnership does not provide representation in criminal law cases or in cases of liability that are generally handled on a contingency fee basis. “Because lawyers have expertise in poverty law, they understand the challenges many families face in their daily lives and are well-schooled in getting those issues resolved efficiently,” stated Jeffrey A. Been, executive director of the Legal Aid Society.

Cases that can’t be resolved at the clinic-level are referred to the Legal Aid Society, the Louisville Bar Association’s Pro Bono Consortium or to supervised law students in the Legal Clinic of the U of L Brandeis School of Law, according to the release.

 “Simply fending off germs and accounting for family history isn’t always enough to keep a child well. Sometimes legal issues force children to live in unhealthy environments,” stated Faye Jones, M.D., UofL General Pediatrics division chief. “Thanks to the foresight and generosity of Louisville’s legal community, we are able to step beyond diagnosis and offer preventive legal services in a medical setting.”

The program was piloted last summer at Children & Youth Project, a primary care teaching practice of U o fL Pediatrics. Its multidisciplinary health team cares for approximately 9,500 children, primarily those with the greatest medical and socioeconomic needs, according to the release.

The Stonestreet practice cares for 6,200 patients and the Broadway practice sees about 8,000 children.

The medical-legal program will be available to patients at Kosair Children’s Hospital and U of L Pediatrics’ other general pediatrics offices, UofL Pediatrics-Stonestreet and UofL Pediatrics-Broadway, according to a news release.

Doctors & Lawyers for Kids was conceived in 2009 when the Louisville Pro Bono Consortium tapped one of its members to look into a medical-legal partnership for the Louisville community. Martha 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, had the background and connections needed to undertake the initiative, according to the release.

“Together, doctors and lawyers can work to avert some of these health crises for our community’s neediest children,” Hasselbacher stated. “While popular culture often portrays doctors and lawyers as adversaries, when we work together for the benefit of patients, we can be a powerful force.”

About University of Louisville Pediatrics: U of L Pediatrics is a network of approximately 180 pediatric specialists, all University of Louisville School of Medicine faculty. These physicians care for patients, conduct research and train the next generation of pediatricians. Our pediatric specialists and residents-in-training provide the vast majority of general and subspecialty medical care at Kosair Children’s Hospital. We care for newborns at nine other Kentucky and Indiana hospitals. We also see patients at outpatient clinics across Kentucky and southern Indiana. More information is available at louisville.edu/medschool/pediatrics.

About the Legal Aid Society: The mission of the Legal Aid Society is to pursue justice for people in poverty. We provide free legal services to the most disadvantaged in our community. We fight on your behalf when your health, safety, and stability are unjustly threatened. Last year, Legal Aid helped more than 5,000 people who had nowhere else to turn. In cases in which Legal Aid represented a client in negotiation with a third party or at a court appearance, 89 percent were resolved favorably for our clients.

About Kosair Children’s Hospital: For more than a century, Kosair Children’s Hospital and its predecessor hospitals have cared for the children of Kentucky and Southern Indiana without regard to their families’ ability to pay. Kosair Children’s Hospital is Kentucky’s only full-service, free-standing pediatric care facility dedicated exclusively to caring for children and is an advocate for the health and well-being of all children. The 263-bed hospital, supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, serves as the primary pediatric teaching facility for the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

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