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More free legal advice available to patients of Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU

Lawyer talking to client

An additional 50 attorneys are now available to CHoR families with legal needs that impact the health of their children, thanks to a new partnership launched by Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University with McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy. The new partnership significantly expands the existing Medical-Legal Partnership – Richmond program, which began in January 2018 and offers free legal advice and representation to eligible patients and their families in Richmond and surrounding counties.

“MLP-Richmond has received approximately 200 referrals of families at the Children’s Pavilion and VCU Massey Cancer Center each of the past two years, but there are many more who can benefit from this professional assistance,” said Allison Held, associate general counsel and director of MLP-Richmond at VCU Health. “The generosity and willingness of these attorneys from outside the health care industry to donate their time and work alongside us to help patients in difficult situations is remarkable.”

With the addition of these attorneys, MLP-Richmond has expanded to provide access to legal counsel at no cost to families of pediatric patients at Virginia Treatment Center for Children and CHoR’s Brook Road Campus, along with adult patients at VCU Health’s Complex Care Clinic.

Types of legal issues covered

The free legal services covered by the McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy attorneys include:

  • Housing law (eviction defense, repairs, substandard housing conditions, etc.)
  • Immigration relief (as it relates to access to care)
  • Family law (child custody, guardianship, domestic violence)
  • Simple wills, powers of attorney and advance medical directives
  • Education advocacy (IEP eligibility and enforcement, 504 plans, bullying, etc.)

MLP-Richmond services already offered by on-site attorneys through the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and CancerLINC include:

  • Health and public benefits (Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, etc.)
  • Employment and consumer law (bankruptcy, debt collection defenses, garnishment protection, etc.)

The new partnership uses Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines for income eligibility to determine who qualifies for free legal assistance, as they are more generous than poverty guidelines and enable the program to serve more patients who cannot afford a lawyer.

Rodent problem cleared up through free legal assistance

Takia Gant, whose 1-year-old son Adrian has cerebral palsy, knows first-hand the importance of legal assistance as a component of comprehensive health care. When her apartment had an unpleasant smell and was overrun with rodents, her already-fragile son experienced recurrent illness. She tried many times to get the general manager to take action without success. Tiffany Kimbrough, M.D., Adrian’s pediatrician at CHoR, referred Gant to MLP-Richmond.

“Within a month, the attorney got us out of the apartment and into a new one. She even got my rent reduced at the new apartment to match what I was paying before,” Gant said. “Having somebody to help me made my life so much easier. She was basically my voice. She still calls and checks up on me to make sure everything is going great.”

Adrian has not been sick in four months and is no longer on supplemental oxygen as he prepares to celebrate his second birthday.

“Imagine a child living in public housing has asthma and there is a mold problem. This could be life-threatening,” Kimbrough said. “We now have partners on board to help take care of the whole child and family — to get them appropriate housing and keep them healthy. MLP-Richmond helps with everything from wheelchair ramps and custody support to education advocacy. They are helping us make sure every child has the opportunity for a healthy future.”

Legal help affirms commitment to treating whole person

MLP-Richmond’s Held called the expansion a “game changer. “It will enable us to serve more patients with legal needs that affect their health and well-being, and who have nowhere else to turn. That’s what MLP-Richmond is all about – improving community health through legal advocacy.”

Jon Harmon, McGuireWoods’ chairman, applauded VCU Health’s effort to treat the whole person by addressing social issues rooted in legal problems for its patients. “To the extent our legal assistance improves the health and well-being of patients and families, we are all the better for it.”

Added Carlos M. Brown, senior vice president and general counsel for Dominion Energy, “We are excited about the potential that our partnership with McGuireWoods and VCU Health will have on improving the lives of some of our most vulnerable customers. Our commitment to the medical-legal partnership is part of our belief that our actions speak louder than our words.”

Contact us

For more information on the Medical-Legal Partnership – Richmond program, please visit our website, call (804) 517-9110 or email MLP@vcuhealth.org.