by Kathy Para
JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
What is the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership?
The NFMLP is part of a nationwide network of projects in which professionals from the medical and legal communities combine resources to produce outcomes for low-income and vulnerable patients that positively impact their health and ability to thrive. All over the United States, health care providers who take care of low-income individuals and families are turning to a new specialist to help keep their patients healthy and safe: lawyers. Not every illness has a biological remedy. For example: an asthmatic person will never breathe symptom free, no matter how much medication is administered, if he or she returns from the doctor’s office to mold-infested housing, as thousands do. An attorney can intercede to ensure that housing standards in rented properties are in compliance, ensuring that landlords keep units safely habitable. There are countless other examples in which positive health outcomes are achieved in various areas of substantive law: education, guardianship, social security, public benefits, immigration and others. The program in Northeast Florida is expanding services to more patients in need by adding pro bono attorneys.
How does it work?
When a doctor, nurse, social worker or other member of the medical team suspects that an environmental, economic, social or educational legal issue may exist, that person makes a referral to NFMLP for a legal diagnosis. The referrals come from various clinics serving the low-income population. A Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney interviews the referred patient and evaluates whether he or she could benefit from legal assistance or another community service. If legal assistance is recommended, the case is placed with the NFMLP for pro bono placement. Pro bono attorneys receive case summaries and full case information prior to acceptance of the case.
How will pro bono attorneys and their law firms be able to help?
Initially, attorneys are needed to represent individual clients. Mid-sized and larger law firms are encouraged to develop expertise among a group of partners, associates and interns in a specific substantive area such as education, social security, guardianships or immigration. These law firms have identified areas of expertise and have committed to pro bono participation: Holland & Knight – Guardian Advocacy; Harrell and Harrell – Social Security. The NFMLP would welcome attorneys in these areas and other areas of expertise. Solo and small firm practitioners are also needed in their chosen areas of legal expertise. Training is provided free of charge and attorneys serving NFMLP clients are covered with professional liability insurance through JALA. Clients give permission for sharing of information, as needed, among the medical and legal partners working on their behalf. Attorneys communicate with the referring medical partner on case progress and outcomes. Interested attorneys will also be invited to participate in cases that may involve systemic issues impacting large numbers of patient-clients.
What is the structure of the NFMLP?
The NFMLP is coordinated by the Operations Team subgroup of the larger NFMLP Steering Committee. Members of the Operations Team include representatives from Holland & Knight (Buddy Schulz and Donny MacKenzie), JAXHATS Clinic (Dr. Jeff Goldhagen), Florida Legal Services (Sheila Meehan) and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (Rebecca Feyerick and myself). The Steering Committee meets quarterly, consists of representatives from the medical and legal communities, and had its kickoff meeting on Feb. 2. The NFMLP has recently received a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation to build the partnership’s infrastructure, expand pro bono services and design a program that can be duplicated statewide. A website is in development (www.nfmlp.org) and will pro-vide information about the partnership as well as the platform for referrals from medical personnel, doctor training, attorney training and pro bono attorney sign-ups. (For a full story on the kickoff of the NFMLP Steering Committee go to the Financial News & Daily Record website at www.jaxdailyrecord.com and search archives.
Will training be available for pro bono attorneys?
The Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership has the first two free CLE webinars designed to introduce and train volunteer attorneys. The first web training on Education Advocacy presented by Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Rebekah Gleason took place April 30 and is now available online. The second webinar training will be on the topics of Guardian Advocacy and Temporary Relative Custody and will be presented by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney Kim Martyn from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 14. Attorneys who would like to participate in the webinars should contact Kathy Para ([email protected], 904-356-8371, ext. 363).
How do I or my firm get involved?
Simply contact Kathy Para by e-mail, U.S. mail or fax: [email protected], 126 W. Adams St., 32202, 904-224-7050, and indicate the areas of substantive law in which the attorney or firm may be willing to consider cases. Questions and suggestions are welcome. Attorneys may also contact Buddy Schulz ([email protected]) or Donny MacKenzie ([email protected]).
Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership
The NFMLP is a community-based collaboration among doctors and lawyers. Its mission is to improve the health outcomes of low-income and vulnerable children and adults by providing a multidisciplinary team approach to patient care in our community.
Joe Cozier; Area Health Education Consortium
Hugh Greene; Baptist Medical Center
Hank Coxe; Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans, and Coxe
Leslie Scott Jean-Bart; D.W. Perkins Bar Association
Jay Millson; Duval Medical Society
Karen Millard; Florida Coastal School of Law
Sheila Meehan; Florida Legal Services
Renee Harrell; Harrell and Harrell
Buddy Schulz, Donny MacKenzie; Holland & Knight
Hugh Cotney, Rebecca Feyerick, Kathy Para; Jacksonville Area Legal Aid
Ray Driver; Jacksonville Bar Association
Jeff Goldhagen; JAXHATS Clinic
William Rupp, Floyd Willis, Walter Taylor, Peter Murray; Mayo Clinic
Rogers Cain; Northeast Florida Medical Society
David Wood; Northeast Florida Pediatric Society
Rebecca Cooper; Partnership for Child Health
Fred Franklin; Rogers Tower
Howard Watts, David McInnes; St. Vincent’s Hospital
Mary Robinson; Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless
Jim Burkhart, Connie Hahn, Charles Caniff; UF/Shands
Jim Burt; Volunteers in Medicine
Sue Nussbaum; We Care Jacksonville
Jose Zayas; Wolfson/Baptist Residency Program