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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 10, 201805:10 AM EST

Program brings legal, medical professions together

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Legal community seeks to raise $1 million over five years for legal aid and health care providers.

By Asghar Syed, Jacksonville Bar Association Board of Governors

Last year, I had a conversation with Jim Kowalski, executive director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. We discussed a host of challenges and opportunities and explored how the Jacksonville Bar Association can best support JALA’s important work. 

One initiative stood out for me. Kowalski wants to deepen JALA’s ties to Jacksonville’s business community.

Tampa was the model, where the business community works hand-in-hand with legal aid to advance community needs.

Why not here?

Our conversation quickly turned to Katy DeBriere, whose work with the North Florida Medical Legal Partnership exemplifies Kowalski’s vision.

Although NFMLP has been in place for years, in 2017 it allied with Michael Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, and really got things moving. 

But let’s step back. What is NFMLP?

It is part of a national network of medical/legal partnerships. These projects bring medical and legal professionals together to serve low-income and vulnerable patients, often children.

The key to understanding NFMLP is recognizing that low-income patients often need help that the health care industry can’t deliver.

No matter how much medication is administered, an asthmatic child will never breathe symptom-free if he or she returns from the doctor’s office to a mold-infested rental unit.

But an attorney can contact the family’s landlord to address the mold.

By working together and smarter, attorneys can help reduce the burden on hospital emergency rooms, allowing health systems to devote resources where they are most needed. That’s a win-win. 

Thanks to DeBriere’s leadership, JALA now operates NFMLP in collaboration with Baptist Health, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, UF Health and Community PedsCare, a pediatric program of Community Hospice & Palliative Care.

This fall, the Young Lawyers Section of the JBA did its part in helping kids stay healthy.

The YLS selected NFMLP as the beneficiary of its annual Tee It Up for Charity golf tournament and, with a 125 percent match from the Baptist Health Foundation, raised $43,219 for the medical/legal partnership. 

We are just getting started.

Over five years, our goal is to raise $1 million for NFMLP that will be matched by $1.25 million from the Baptist Health Foundation to form an endowment to fund NFMLP in perpetuity. 

To that end, on Sunday, Mike Freed, former JBA president and Gunster shareholder, began the second edition of his six marathon runs in six days to raise funds for NFMLP.

He will be accompanied on Freed to Run 2.0 by teams of runners, including state and federal judges, running full marathons or participating in relay teams along the route from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

With the Baptist Health Foundation match, the inaugural Freed to Run raised more than $150,000 in 2017 and aims to more than double that figure this year. 

If you would like to show your support for NFMLP, and get a little exercise, sign up to be part of the final five kilometers of Freed to Run 2.0 on Friday.

Runners will gather at 2:45 p.m. at the Jacksonville Farmers Market and accompany Freed on a leisurely run to the Duval County Court House.

Find details and register at www.jaxlegalaid.org/freedtorun5k/ 

Asghar Syed is a shareholder with Gunster and focuses on business litigation relating principally to employment and health care law. 

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