Newark, NJ – The hospital setting, where low-income individuals seek medical attention when their health problems become acute, can be a critical point of access to needed help for legal problems.
The Legal Assistance to Medical Patients (LAMP) program, designed as a partnership between Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), provides such a point of access. When an individual is identified by a health care professional to be in need of legal assistance, LAMP can help them obtain professional services to help address civil legal problems. “In fact, many health problems derive from social and environmental conditions that directly relate to or negatively affect one’s health and could be addressed with legal help,” explains Ellen Cohen, MD, Residency Program Director at NBIMC and Medical Director of the LAMP Program. “Children living in poverty experience a disproportionately high level of poor health and developmental outcomes because their families lack the financial resources to afford basic needs.” Dr. Cohen points out that families may be living with unsanitary conditions, dangerous wiring, inadequate or nonexistent heating, or exposure to lead paint. In addition, their lives may be seriously disrupted in the aftermath of an eviction or domestic violence. As a result, they may be unable to access basic preventive health care and necessary medications.
LAMP, funded by the Healthcare Foundation of NJ and the Medical Legal Partnership for Children in Boston, is based upon a model first developed at Boston University School of Medicine in the early 1990’s and subsequently implemented at numerous health care sites around the country. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s LAMP is the first in New Jersey, and the first hospital-based program in the country designed to address the needs of both pediatric and adult patients.
Housed in the Family Health Center, directly across the street from the hospital, and staffed by an attorney and a paralegal from LSNJ, the program first opened its doors in February 2008, and began an extensive effort to educate clinical staff throughout the hospital about identifying patients in need of legal services and the steps to make a referral. As of September 2008, the program has received over 120 referrals from departments such as Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and OB/GYN.
Problems referred to LSNJ range from denials of public benefits, such as Social Security Insurance and Medicaid, to temporary guardianship concerns. Families dealing with these problems need intervention and advocacy in the form of direct legal assistance, which Legal Services programs provide. Health care professionals who treat vulnerable populations are in a unique position to identify their patients’ problems outside the clinical setting that affect their health; however, most do not question their patients about the home environment because they lack information and ready access to legal resources. With LAMP integrated into the clinical setting, Legal Services staff can assist medical professionals – training the medical staff to recognize problems needing legal intervention and providing the appropriate legal assistance to patients.
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is ideally suited to offer LAMP as Newark remains one of New Jersey’s poorest cities, with some of the most pressing health and social issues affecting its children and families. LAMP is poised to help by identifying those in need of legal assistance at a critical time – during a medical or hospital visit – and connecting them with proper assistance.
For more information about the LAMP Program, please call Ellen Cohen, MD, at (973) 926-8407 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Stacey Bussel, LAMP Attorney, at (973) 926-2996 or email@example.com.
About Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, a 673-bed regional care, teaching hospital established in 1901, provides comprehensive health care services to its local communities and is a major referral and treatment center for patients throughout the northern New Jersey metropolitan area. The Medical Center has New Jersey's most comprehensive Robotic Surgery Center; the State's first accredited Sleep Disorders Center; one of the largest electrophysiology programs in New Jersey; kidney transplantation; the largest hospital-based dental program in New Jersey and The Saint Barnabas Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, which offers the best in adult and pediatric cardiology services and cardiac surgery programs. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is also home to Children's Hospital of New Jersey, the state's premier children's health facility; Children's Hospital provides state-of-the-art care in nearly 30 pediatric subspecialties. Treating ill and injured children from newborn to adolescent years, Children's Hospital also initiates preventive programs that promote wellness in the community.
About Legal Services of New Jersey
Legal Services programs are the primary vehicle by which society provides free legal assistance in civil matters to people who cannot afford the cost of legal representation, offering a full range of legal assistance, from brief advice and counseling to litigation. In 2007, more than 63,000 new cases were opened by New Jersey’s Legal Services programs. As the coordinating office for the statewide system of Legal Services programs in New Jersey, Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) ties together the efforts of six regional programs, providing information, training, legal and administrative coordination, technical assistance, and other support. With a full-time staff of more than 200, including more than 75 attorneys, LSNJ – in addition to its role as the coordinating center for the state – also provides representation in matters of broad or statewide significance, and initiates special projects in response to particular, emerging needs of the low-income population. LSNJ operates a toll-free, statewide legal hotline, 1-888-LSNJ-LAW; maintains a Web site for general use (www.lsnj.org), another site designed especially for use by low-income people seeking legal help (www.LSNJLAW.org), and a third directed toward pro bono attorneys (www.ProBonoNJ.org); conducts research and advocacy through its Poverty Research Institute; publishes a wide range of community legal education materials; and provides direct representation to clients through special projects in many areas of law.
Date: November 10, 2008
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