Hospital partners with LAD to help sick kids, families

By Christine L. Mobley

Legal News

The desire of wanting to provide for the overall well-being of a sick child was the impetus of Beaumont Hospital's Legal Aid for Children (LAFC) program.

Created this year, the LAFC is a collaboration between Beaumont Hospitals and Legal Aid and Defender Association Inc. (LAD) to provide free legal services to improve the health and welfare of low-income children and their families served by Beaumont.

"Taking care of our children involves more than medical care," Dr. Jeffrey Maisels, physician-in-chief of Beaumont Children's Hospital, noted. "It involves helping the other needs that they have that are related to the welfare of the children and the families that we serve."

"We have sensed for a long time that we have a lot of families that have needs that we can't fulfill just in the medical sense," Dr. Mary Smyth, chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics at Beaumont, said while citing several different patient concerns calling for LAFC's existence.

"As an attorney, and as an attorney in a health care facility, I think it's really important," Karen Luther, senior corporate counsel in Legal Affairs at Beaumont, said. "If we can solve their legal problems then that gives the physicians so much more time and ability to really care for the health of the child.

"It's really a neat fit between the medical profession and the legal profession," Luther added. "And it's a good way for us to work together."

Many of those who were celebrating the successful launch of the LAFC agreed with those sentiments.

"I think it's a very important project to have a medical/legal partnership," Kelly Bidelman, LAD Oakland County office managing attorney, said.

"We're able to find families where they have an issue, for instance, the inability to pay a medical bill, and we're able to step in and help them with those legal needs for free," Bidelman said while emphasizing the importance of the LAC.

Some of the issues that the attorneys will help with include (but are not limited to):

* Income Support: Social Security, SSI, State Disability Assistance, Department of Human Services, and unemployment issues.

* Health Insurance: Medicaid and state health and private insurance programs.

* Education: Special education, early intervention, school expulsions and suspensions.

* Family Law: Domestic violence, restraining orders/personal protection orders, child support, and guardianship.

* Housing: Foreclosures, landlord/tenant issues, public housing, Section 8, eviction issues, and lead paint abatement.

* Consumer: auto defects, auto repossession, credit card defaults, and garnishments.

LAFC is located in Suite 220 of the Medical Office Building at Beaumont's Royal Oak campus. Clinic hours are conducted Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons.

LAFC can handle a variety of legal issues that affect a child's health. LAD staff attorneys will provide legal services to eligible pediatric patients or family member who resides in the same household as a Beaumont pediatric patient. To receive services, a referral must be obtained through Medical Social Work at Beaumont Hospital.

"We would love to see this concept actually grow in the future to be able to assist other vulnerable populations that we see at Beaumont Hospital - like the elderly," Linda Caurdy-Bess, manager of Medical Social Work at Beaumont. "Our hope would be that we can demonstrate the importance to our administrators and funding sources to be able to offer more services to more of our patients."

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"Families should not have to choose between food and medicine for their child simply because they are unemployed," Michelle Hall Edwards, deputy chief of LAD's Civil Law Group, notes.

"(Beaumont) can treat the medical issues and we can deal with the legal issues."

Published: Tue, Nov 24, 2009