Health & Science

Texas Children’s To Offer On-Site Lawyer For Patient Families

Texas Children's Hospital now has a full-time attorney on site to help patients negotiate legal programs that arise during illness. The program is part of a national trend in which hospitals try to bridge the gap between health problems and the outside world.

Hospitals have traditionally relied on social workers to help patients and their families solve problems that crop up during a medical crisis.

Lori Armstrong is Chief Nursing Officer at Texas Children’s Hospital.

 “It might be issues with medical bills, and then other things come up. Is it the rent? Is it school support? Our children are complex, they might miss school or they have special needs and sometimes our families need expert advice on how to get the most from the school systems that they’re dealing with.”

But sometimes it takes a lawyer to really sort out the issues.

For example, an attorney could force a landlord to clean up a moldy apartment that is making a child more sick.

Or help a family set up a legal guardianship for a special-needs teenager about to turn 18.

Texas Children’s will now have a full-time paid lawyer on site, provided by the Houston Bar Association.

Other lawyers in Houston will assist by volunteering their time to take cases.

Brent Benoit is president of the Houston Bar Association.

“So what this medical-legal partnership allows us to do is to work hand-in-hand with the social workers so that whenever something becomes a legal issue then all of a sudden we have lawyers standing ready to help, instead of having a gap where folks have to stop and try to find a lawyer, and have a difficult time finding a lawyer, this makes it much more seamless.”

Walmart provided a $100,000 grant to start the program.

And other hospitals across the country have also set up in-house legal clinics.

The idea is to solve socioeconomic problems that can affect health, such as safe housing, malnutrition and access to insurance.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.