|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
December 13, 2006
HHC and LegalHealth Treat Patients’ Legal Pains
Public hospital patients get free legal help
New York City –The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and LegalHealth, a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group, today announced that they have provided free legal services to nearly 900 public hospital patients on almost 1,300 legal matters over the past four years.
Through its partnership with LegalHealth, HHC’s patients received free legal advice and representation on a wide variety of civil legal matters. Some of the cases concern the restoration of public benefits that have been improperly cut off, housing problems, immigration matters, wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, special education issues and family law matters. Each patient is given assistance on both legal and non-legal administrative matters that typically require anywhere from three to 15 hours of legal research, writing and phone calls. Had each patient been represented by private general-practice attorney, they would have been charged an average of $4,500 for legal fees, with a total combined value of approximately $690,000. LegalHealth is funded by private foundations and small contributions from its hospital partners.
“For patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart failure, asthma or other debilitating illnesses like cancer, the added stress of legal problems – from living in unhealthy housing conditions to losing medical benefits – can be overwhelming,” said Alan D. Aviles, HHC President. “Through this innovative collaborative with LegalHealth, we’re able to treat our patient’s inter-related medical and non-medical ailments – the whole patient.”
HHC doctors, nurses, social workers and other staff at four HHC facilities worked closely with LegalHealth, a division of the non-profit New York Legal Assistance Group, to insure the success of the program that helps them to identify and address the non-medical needs of low-income patients. The hospitals, Bellevue in Manhattan, Elmhurst in Queens, Kings County in Brooklyn, and Lincoln in the Bronx, host weekly on-site legal clinics where patients receive free legal advice and representation from LegalHealth attorneys. Starting in 2007, LegalHealth will provide service to Staten Island’s Community Health Center of Richmond. HHC is funding the service expansion in partnership with the Richmond Center's leadership, thus bringing LegalHealth to all five boroughs.
“LegalHealth was formed to complement health care with legal care. Our attorneys go to medical facilities to meet with patients in an environment they are already familiar with and comfortable in,” said Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth. “We want health care professionals to recognize how a patient’s health may be impacted by poor housing conditions or the denial of disability benefits. We want them to know that there is something they can do about it.”
To help health care providers identify potential non-medical issues that prevented patients from focusing on their health, LegalHealth attorneys trained nearly 800 providers in seminars such as “Bringing Advocacy to Your Practice,” “Improving Your Patients’ Housing,” and “Forms 101.” As leaders in the movement to expand patient care to include legal care, LegalHealth’s and HHC’s goal is to change the way doctors think about their patients and offer another important tool for treating all at-risk New Yorkers.
“We are very excited about our partnership with LegalHealth,” said Dr. Rand David, Director of Ambulatory Care at Elmhurst Hospital Center. “I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact this program has had on patients’ lives and health. Our relationship with LegalHealth has allowed our doctors to recognize and address a broader range of issues being faced by our patients. It’s great to know that we can offer this additional service and give patients a way of addressing their non-medical issues. LegalHealth helps us bridge the gap that has historically separated doctors from lawyers,” David added. “Now we work together and can broaden the treatment options available to our patients.”
“My three kids and I lived in an apartment that had paint peeling from the ceiling, water bugs, and moldy walls,” said Mrs. C, a patient at Lincoln Hospital. “One of my sons has asthma and no matter how much I complained to the landlord, he never made any repairs. The terrible conditions made my son’s asthma worse. He was in the emergency room every other week and it got so bad that I thought the apartment would end up killing him. My son’s asthma doctor at Lincoln asked me about the apartment and then referred me to LegalHealth. Attorney Joseph Krummel represented me in Housing Court. The judge told the landlord to clean and fix the apartment right away. Mr. Krummel even followed-up to make sure the repairs were done. He also was able to get me a rent refund. Thanks to Mr. Krummel and LegalHealth my son and I can breath easier!”
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The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal hospital and health care system in the country, is a $4.9 billion public benefit corporation that serves 1.3 million New Yorkers and nearly 400,000 who are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 80 community based clinics. For more information about HHC, visit www.nyc.gov/hhc.
LegalHealth, a not-for-profit division of the New York Legal Assistance Group, partners with medical professionals and community-based organizations to address the non-medical needs of low income people with serious health problems. LegalHealth complements health care with legal care - providing free legal services in medical facilities and training healthcare professionals to understand the legal issues their patients face. For more information about Legal Health visit www.legalhealth.org.
Community Health Center of Richmond is the first consumer governed, not-for-profit community health center in Staten Island. It provides primary medical care to Staten Island residents without regard for their ability to pay for it. CHCR is funded through a grant from HHC. For more information, contact Jack Essex, Executive Director at (718) 876-1732.