LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV)-- Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH), Walmart and the Arkansas legal community today announced a partnership to provide legal services to qualifying hospital patients and their families at no charge.
Known as a medical-legal partnership, or MLP, the pro bono corporate initiative is the first of its kind in the country.
"Our most vulnerable patients and their families will soon have a new ally in their fight to get and stay healthy - the Arkansas legal community," said Jonathan Bates, MD, president and CEO of Arkansas Children's Hospital. "We know that children have many needs beyond the health care that we provide. In many cases, those can be resolved most efficiently with the help of an attorney."
Under the partnership, Legal Aid of Arkansas and Walmart will provide legal assistance to patient families in need at clinics set up at ACH, as well as during inpatient visits. Direct access to legal services will help many families address obstacles to good health and continuing recovery. Attorneys can help families who need utility service recovery for the child's home care, assistance negotiating with a landlord over the environment of an apartment or even special educational testing.
"The children we see need and deserve education services that will help them make the most of their strengths, and sometimes attorneys can be the linchpin for that success by ensuring that the laws that protect children with disabilities are being followed," Bates said.
"It's a privilege for us to help families receiving care for their children at Arkansas Children's Hospital," said Jeff Gearhart, executive vice president and general counsel of Walmart. "This partnership enables our attorneys to give back in a unique way to the communities Walmart serves by contributing their legal expertise to people in need, and we hope this becomes a model for pro bono legal assistance in other cities around the country."
Spearheading the medical-legal partnership for Arkansas Children's Hospital have been Bonnie Taylor, MD, a professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and former medical director of the hospital, as well as Director of ACH Social Work Carol Maxwell, LCSW, ACSW. The on-site attorney for the partnership will be Amy Pritchard, JD, of Legal Aid of Arkansas.
"We view this program as an extension of our medical services," Taylor said. "The attorneys are essentially the new subspecialists that help us get kids back on the path to a healthy and happy childhood."
Medical-legal partnerships can bring much needed benefits to patients, providers and health institutions. MLPs now operate in more than 250 clinical sites across the U.S., bringing lawyers into hospitals and health centers to connect low-income and chronically ill patients to benefits and protections including disability income, adequate nutrition, and safe and affordable housing.
MLP teams train health care providers to screen for legal needs that impact health and to refer their patients to on-site attorneys who can help them resolve these problems. Endorsed by the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association among other health and law leaders, medical-legal partnership is undergoing a rapid expansion in both rural and urban settings. The Arkansas MLP is poised to be a leader in applying MLP in a rural setting.
Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. The campus spans 29 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. ACH recently ranked No. 75 on FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services are non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to low income persons with civil legal problems. With 17 offices staffed by more than 50 attorneys throughout the state, plus a volunteer pool of over 1,500 attorneys, Legal Aid services benefited over 30,000 low-income people and the elderly with their critical legal needs in 2010. If you need legal advice or representation, call 1-800-9-LAW AID (1-800-952-9243) to apply for services.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., (NYSE: WMT) serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week at more than 9,000 retail units under 60 different banners in 15 countries. With fiscal year 2011 sales of $419 billion, Walmart employs more than two million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity.