Boston Childrens Launches Medical Legal Partnership

Program will support primary care families and providers

December 29, 2010
Boston, MA -- Children's Hospital Boston announced today the creation of the Medical-Legal Partnership at Children's Hospital Boston, a new program available in the Children's Hospital Primary Care Center (CHPCC) to aid vulnerable patients by helping ensure that their basic needs - such as food, housing and utilities, education and employment, health care, and personal and family stability and safety - are met. The program offers families and providers access to legal information and support in identifying and addressing unmet legal needs and navigating public services and service protection. Left unaddressed, these needs, which are important determinants of health, can hinder a patient's clinical progress.

"Many of our patients are chronically ill so it is of utmost importance that their basic needs are met so we can do our jobs and help them get better," said Joanne Cox, MD, medical director of the CHPCC. "Our medical and social work staff already spend a lot of time advocating for patients, whether it's writing letters to utility companies, helping families access food stamps, or communicating with landlords about poor housing conditions. Now we'll have access to lawyers with expertise in navigating the legal systems that so often leave our patients behind."

The Children's Hospital Primary Care Center provides primary care services to approximately 13,000 children in the greater Boston area. Sixty-five percent of these children are covered by Medicaid, indicating that their families are low-income, and one in five has a significant chronic illness, such as asthmacerebral palsy, diabetes, and genetic conditions.

MLP | Boston is the Founding Site of the national MLP Network, which features almost 80 sites across the U.S. and Canada. CHPCC patient families can be referred to MLP by a physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, or social worker in clinic. On contact, MLP will determine the legal issue that needs to be addressed and whether it can be resolved on the phone, in the legal clinic held each Wednesday in the CHPCC, or via pro bono contributions by attorneys at private Boston law firms.

Kristin Small, Esq., will lead MLP at Children's with support from an Advisory Board including Dr. Cox, Children's General Counsel Stuart Novick, Esq., and Vice President of Government Relations Joshua Greenberg, Esq. - who served as the first MLP | Boston attorney. Kathleen Conroy, MD, MSc, serves as MLP Medical Champion and Sally Cheek, LICSW, as Social Work Champion within the CHPCC. In her new role, Small will serve as a resource for patient families who are referred to her through MLP and will partner with Conroy and Cheek to train CHPCC providers on conducting legal and social screenings to best detect possible issues among their patient population.

"As one of the top children's hospitals in the world, Children's Hospital Boston is poised to be a leader and innovator in MLP practices on behalf of low-income, medically vulnerable patients," says Samantha Morton, Executive Director of MLP | Boston. "It is particularly gratifying to partner with the CHPCC, where many of the pediatrics residents in the Boston Combined Residency Program see patients. We hope access to this program will influence the next generation of health care professionals and shape how they think of comprehensive care."

In addition to providing support to families and providers, MLP | Boston looks broadly across its cases to identify instances where public policy problems may exist on a local, state or federal level, and works with its physician partners to bring to the debate their expertise on how these policies may impact child health.

Founded at Boston Medical Center in 1993, the medical-legal partnership model is now active and operating in 225 healthcare institutions in 38 states. More than 25 healthcare institutions in the Commonwealth have active MLP programs.

Keri Stedman
Children's Hospital Boston

Leah Rappaport
MLP | Boston

Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts children, and the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In addition to 392 pediatric and adolescent inpatient beds and comprehensive outpatient programs, Children's houses the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries benefit both children and adults. More than 1,100 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 members of the Institute of Medicine and 13 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. For more information about the hospital

Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston allies health care providers with lawyers to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Combining the strengths of law and health care, MLP | Boston ensures that low-income patients' basic needs - for food, housing, education, health care, and personal and family stability and safety - are met. We do this by building advocacy capacity in health care staff and systems, providing legal advice and assistance to patients, and pursuing policy change in close partnership with clinicians. MLP | Boston is the Founding Site of the national MLP Network, which now features almost 80 sites across the U.S. and Canada partnered with 200+ health care institutions. Supported by a panel of 16 law firm and in-house pro bono partners, we currently serve Boston Medical Center, Children's Hospital Boston, Codman Square Health Center, Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, South Boston Community Health Center, South End Community Health Center, and Upham's Corner Health Center. For more information, please visit: