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VCU Health, McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy Win National Award for Medical-Legal Partnership

Allison Held, associate general counsel and director for the Medical Legal Partnership at VCU Health

Allison Held, associate general counsel and director for the Medical Legal Partnership at VCU Health

A successful medical-legal partnership, first created by VCU Health and then expanded with the support of McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy, will be honored with the 2022 Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) Pro Bono Partner Award from Pro Bono Institute (PBI). The national award recognizes innovative pro bono partnerships between law firms, in-house legal departments and public interest organizations to help low-income patients and families in the Richmond area.

VCU Health identified the need for a system to address patients’ legal needs and started the medical-legal partnership (MLP) in 2018. A year later, VCU Health approached Dominion Energy and McGuireWoods for help in expanding the program to serve additional patient populations. The collaboration enabled the MLP to expand services, more than doubling the number of patients served.

We recognize that circumstances outside our clinic walls, such as a lack of food, unstable housing or a child not getting the support they need at school can have a profound effect on patient health,” said Allison Held, associate general counsel and director for the MLP at VCU Health. “Adding lawyers to our health care teams made sense. We are thrilled to have many amazing partners, such as McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy, to provide this service to our patients and families.

The partnership enables VCU Health doctors and social workers to refer patients to McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy lawyers for assistance with critical legal services. Lawyers intervene to address social determinants of health, such as unlawful evictions, poor housing conditions, family law and immigration status. Lawyers also help children and families advocate for students in school and help with planning documents needed to facilitate patient care, such as adult guardianships and wills.

MLPs have developed across the country as more health systems recognize that long-term health outcomes are as dependent on social circumstances as they are on medical care received by patients. These programs, such as the MLP at VCU Health, integrate the unique expertise of lawyers into health care settings to help clinicians, case managers, and social workers address structural problems at the root of so many health inequities.

More than 110 McGuireWoods and Dominion Energy lawyers have volunteered for the MLP since its launch. To date, MLP has assisted more than 1000 patients and families. MLP lawyers helped a patient in VCU Health’s Complex Care Clinic enroll in Richmond’s eviction diversion program and remain safely at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They assisted an elementary school student with significant disabilities receive necessary services and accommodations through his individualized education plan. And they helped a client obtain Medicaid eligibility for a lifesaving organ transplant.

Learn more about the medical legal partnership.