September 26, 2011

For immediate release

NYS ENDORSES LEGAL ADVOCACY SERVICES IN HEALTHCARE SETTINGS
Healthcare and legal professionals partner to provide aid for low-income individuals

(NEW YORK – September 26, 2011)     On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill making New York the first state to endorse the importance of providing free legal services onsite at healthcare facilities.

The Health-Related Legal Services Programs Law promotes Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) and will establish standards for their implementation. MLPs are programs in which healthcare providers and attorneys work together onsite at medical facilities to identify and resolve the legal issues affecting patients’ well-being. Sponsored by NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Kemp Hannon, the new legislation paves the way for the stabilization and expansion of these services throughout New York. LegalHealth – a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) – and UJA-Federation of New York led the effort working in partnership with the New York State Coalition of MLPs.

“This legislation is a great step forward for the medical-legal partnership movement and we are grateful to the visionary leaders that helped to make it happen,” said Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth and a Founder and Chair of the New York State Coalition of MLPs. “Legal advocacy for New Yorkers with health concerns is most effective when it is a synergistic effort of doctors, social workers, and lawyers. As a team, we can better address the nonmedical factors burdening patients when they are most vulnerable – when they are sick and lack the time and resources to handle them.”

LegalHealth and the other 15 MLPs throughout the State provide onsite legal services at over 40 hospitals and health clinics to alleviate the nexus of poverty, poor health and lack of legal advocacy that traps vulnerable populations. By addressing basic needs such as housing, health insurance coverage, benefits eligibility, and employment issues, the program’s attorneys help resolve situations that may impede treatment or endanger a patient’s health.

In light of the current economic downturn and healthcare reform on both the state and federal levels, medical-legal partnerships are more critical than ever. By enacting this law, New York State has demonstrated a commitment to addressing the social conditions that cause health disparities. In addition, these partnerships assist healthcare facilities in preventing unnecessary hospital readmissions and providing safe and appropriate discharge planning.

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The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) provides free civil legal services to New Yorkers who cannot afford private attorneys. Founded in 1990 on the premise that low-income individuals can improve their lives significantly if given access to the justice system, NYLAG has a comprehensive range of services and core practice areas. For more information, go to www.nylag.org.