The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University is partnering with Northwell Health to provide legal services for patients facing issues that contribute to poor health, such as denial of health care coverage, social services or benefits, immigration and disability benefits.
Funded by a $512,000 state grant, the Medical-Legal Partnership, or MLP, will focus on serving underserved children and adults, such as Medicaid recipients, whose well-being is affected by various social challenges and can’t afford legal intervention. The partnership will target community health disparities: unsanitary housing conditions, denial of health benefits, domestic violence, access to healthy food and water, lack of consistent or affordable child care, and other factors that stand in the way of good health no matter what treatment is given to the patient.
Student fellows at Hofstra Law are already conducting research to further identify and understand patients’ needs. This summer, the Law School’s Gitenstein Institute for Health Law and Policy, which will manage the legal component of the partnership, expects to hire a director of the legal team. In the fall, up to 10 students will work at the clinics to provide legal services and referrals to patients under the direction of a supervising attorney.
“Designed to integrate legal services into the health setting, Hofstra Law and Northwell will join the growing movement to expand health care law that will serve the community and transform health care for vulnerable populations,” said Judge Gail Prudenti, dean of Hofstra Law. “We are incredibly excited to be working with such an outstanding partner in Northwell Health.”
An important component of the program will be cross-training medical and legal providers so they better understand each other’s discipline. Attorneys will see how they fit into the continuum of care, and clinical staff will learn how to identify legal issues impacting patient health. Hofstra Law and Northwell will develop materials and awareness campaigns to educate patients and the community about their legal rights. Northwell will also refer patients and their families to the MLP, as appropriate.
“Negative social factors have a significant impact on health care outcomes, and many of these factors can be mitigated through greater access to legal services,” said Janet L. Dolgin, Hofstra Law professor and director of the Gitenstein Institute.
Medical-legal partnerships operate at 373 health care organizations nationwide, including 31 in New York State, according to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at George Washington University. The Hofstra Law-Northwell MLP is funded through New York State’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP).
“Northwell Health’s partnership with Hofstra Law is an example of the multi-sectoral approach needed to achieve health equity through social equity,” said Ram Raju, MD, senior vice president and community health investment officer at Northwell Health. “We believe this unique collaboration will lead to better outcomes for our patients.”