St. Peter’s Health Partners and Albany Law School Launch Medical-Legal Partnership

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Albany Law School Students to Provide Free Legal Services to Eligible Patients

St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP) and Albany Law School are partnering to help some of the Capital Region’s most vulnerable health care patients obtain free legal services.

The two institutions today signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a Medical-Legal Partnership, which will connect students to represent eligible SPHP patients and their families. Students will be under the supervision of faculty from Albany Law School’s Justice Center.

Under the partnership, The Justice Center will offer legal advice and representation in disputes and other matters relating to a number of issues, from foreclosures, Social Security benefits, and Medicaid or health insurance coverage, to power of attorney, health care proxies, wills, and guardianship.

“We are proud to partner with Albany Law School on this important new initiative, which stands to make a tremendous positive impact on the health, quality of life, and peace of mind of many patients in the Capital Region,” said James K. Reed, M.D., president and CEO of SPHP. “This partnership is perfectly aligned with our system’s mission to provide the highest quality comprehensive continuum of integrated health care, supportive housing, and community services, especially for the needy and vulnerable.”

“This type of partnership benefits everyone, including the community,” said Alicia Ouellette, president and dean of Albany Law School. “Patients gain access to legal representation, and students learn to work with clients under the supervision of an experienced lawyer. Working with St. Peter’s Health Partners strengthens our health law programs.”

The Medical-Legal Partnership aims to help patients and their families who have legal matters that impair the patient’s health, are created or aggravated by the patient’s illness, or are an obstacle to the patient’s treatment or recovery.

The Medical-Legal Partnership is designed to serve patients who meet five eligibility requirements:

• The patient must be an inpatient or observation patient at a SPHP hospital (Albany Memorial, Samaritan, St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s, or Sunnyview).

• The patient must be receiving treatment for cancer, HIV/AIDS, or for any condition in an intensive care unit, critical care unit, or hospice.

• The patient must be the recipient of Medicaid or financial assistance.

• The patient must have a need for legal services offered by the Clinic & Justice Center.

• The hospital’s social work staff must determine the patient’s legal problem is related to the patient’s health.

In most cases, a hospital social worker will identify an eligible patient, and ask the patient if he or she would like to be referred to the Clinic & Justice Center. If the patient agrees, the social worker will contact the center. Patients and their families may also inquire about obtaining legal services through the Medical-Legal Partnership.

After contact is made, the Clinic & Justice Center will confirm the patient’s eligibility for services. If confirmed, the center will contact the patient and enter into a representation agreement.

SPHP and Albany Law School are currently seeking certification for their new Medical-Legal Partnership from the New York State Department of Health.