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Doctors and Lawyers Join Forces to Help Ohio Kids

April 8, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Legal issues can often be entangled with children's health issues, and that's why medical and legal professionals are teaming up in Ohio. The Child Help program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is an example of one of these new collaborations, in which a lawyer and paralegal are on hand to offer assistance with any legal issue that may affect a child's health or their family's.

Donita Parrish, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, says the medical home is the perfect setting because patients trust their doctors.

"When a doctor encourages the family to seek legal interventions, the families tend to respond positively and be happy to get the legal help that they need."

Legal Aid attorneys assist with issues such as poor housing conditions, evictions or foreclosures and custodial problems. They also help with Medicaid, food stamps or any resource families require to meet the needs of their children.

Pediatrician Dr. Melissa Klein with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center says many of the causes of poor child health are social in origin, so by maximizing the resources of two professions, they can get to the root of what is really going on.

"Perhaps one of the best prescriptions we as doctors can give is to say 'take two lawyers and call in the morning' - working together, we can get to the underlying causes of the poor health and really help the family as a whole."

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Bar Association have expressed support for medical-legal programs. The Child Help program stems from a concept initiated at Boston Medical Center.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH