Dr. Paul Pitel, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville since 1997, will be honored by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid during its Bridges to Justice for Children’s Health virtual event.
Bridges to Justice will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 on JALA’s Facebook page at facebook.com/JaxLegalAid.
Pitel is being recognized for his leadership in the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership, through which Nemours and other health care institutions refer pediatric patients to legal aid when the child’s individual or family legal needs are adversely affecting their health.
In a news release, Pitel said health care providers usually are not in a position to resolve many of the social determinants of health, which include the conditions in which a patient lives.
“If it’s a child who has asthma, which is exacerbated by mold in the house, unless we can get somebody to address those problems, we are just patching up the holes. As health care systems and as providers, we need legal input,” he said.
Since it was established in 2018, more than $1 million has been contributed to the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership endowment at JALA, with donations being matched at 125% by Baptist Health.
The goal is $2.25 million, including Baptist’s match, so the endowment can fund the partnership in perpetuity, ensuring that pediatric patients in Northeast Florida will have access to assistance with civil legal issues such as health insurance coverage, educational accommodations, immigration and access to safe housing, transportation and other community services.
“The providers we surveyed in our community unanimously agree the NFMLP improves their patients’ health and quality of life and improves their ability to deliver services, with one going so far as to say they sleep better at night knowing the partnership is there,” said JALA President and CEO Jim Kowalski.
Donations can be made at jaxlegalaid.org/bridgestojusticedonation/.
The Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership is part of a nationwide network of projects in which professionals from the medical and legal communities combine resources to produce positive outcomes for low-income and vulnerable patients.
Through the partnership, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid serves about 200 children a year, including patients of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, UF Health Specialty Pediatric Clinics, the Sulzbacher Village Pediatric Health Center and Community PedsCare, a pediatric program of Community Hospice & Palliative Care.