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Doctor Lawyer Dinner 
Medical-Legal Partnerships: When the Prescription for Health Requires Medical and Legal Services

by Courtney A. Powers
Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) will be the topic addressed at WLALA’s annual Doctor/Lawyer dinner on May 12th, 2011, from 6pm-9pm at the Olympic Collection.  This event is an exceptional opportunity for lawyers and physicians to come together, network and discuss a topic of mutual interest to all.  1.5 hours of CLE credit will be provided. 
What is an MLP?
Lawyers are no stranger to helping low-income clients resolve legal issues.  But a lawyer working in partnership with a health care provider to address a societal detriment of health through an MLP is a relatively new concept gaining traction in Southern California and across the nation.  By working together, doctors can identify patients whose health may be impacted by social issues that require legal representation as much as a doctor’s prescription.  For example, MLPs may:  (1) negotiate with a landlord on behalf of a patient/client to address habitability issues that affect a patient’s health; (2) help clients apply for conservatorships and guardianships for the family members they care for to ensure access to care and government benefits; and (3) negotiate an accommodation at a school on behalf of a child with mental health needs.  MLPs allow legal service providers to evolve their practices into new models of service delivery.  The result is improved health and quality of life for patients/clients and reduced health care expenditures. 
The first MLP was created in 1993 by pediatrician Barry Zuckerman at the Family Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center.  Dr. Zuckerman was treating low income children with the best medical care but was frustrated that social, legal and environmental factors were interfering with his patients’ health and quality of life.  Zuckerman added a lawyer to his treatment team to address these problems.   The partnership proved successful and, according to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnerships (NCMLP), has expanded to eight lawyers and three paralegals serving Boston Medical Center and six affiliated community health centers.
Growing Trend
MLPs are an important and growing trend in health care. NCMLP estimates there are currently about 225 MLPs nationwide, including approximately 10-15 in Southern California.   With the passage of federal health care reform and its focus on improving health outcomes through preventative and coordinated care, MLPs are increasingly viewed by the government, providers and policymakers as an integral element of successful health care reform implementation.    
Implementing an MLP at a clinic, hospital or other site requires navigation of many important issues.  Medical providers must be trained on legal issues, and learn how to identify patients with legal needs.  Lawyers must become experts on the legal issues most frequently impacting patients at a particular MLP.  Most importantly, doctors and lawyers must communicate and work together to best meet patients’ needs.  This also involves navigating issues such as confidentiality, conflict of interest and anti-kickback statutes.  
Program and Panelists:
WLALA is pleased to present the following four expert panelists at this year’s Doctor/Lawyer dinner:
Dr. Rishi Manchanda, MD MPH
Dr. Rishi Manchanda is a primary care physician and the Director of the Program in Social Medicine and Health Equity at St.John's Well Child and Family Center, one of the largest community health centers for low-income working families in Los Angeles.  The Program increases the capacity of the clinic and its clients to improve the living and working conditions that improve health.  Dr. Manchanda is a clinical leader in the development of the MLP model, and is the directing physician of an MLP at his clinic in partnership with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles.  He is a member of the National Health Service Corp and well-versed in the public policy and health issues impacting low-income communities.  He earned his medical and public health degrees from Tufts University. 
Gretchen Peterson, J.D.
Gretchen Peterson is an attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.  She is responsible for administering a new MLP with St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California.  Starting in 2010, Ms. Peterson led the planning for and implementation of policies and procedures governing this new MLP, and has worked to educate and train constituencies who have never had any exposure to an MLP.  Since launching the MLP in July of 2010, Ms. Peterson has opened 148 cases to date and addressed legal issues ranging from government benefits to litigation regarding landlord/tenant disputes.  Ms. Peterson attended Pomona College in Claremont and earned her J.D. at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2009. 
Professor Brietta Clark
Brietta Clark is a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.  She teaches several health care law courses, and her research focuses on the role of law in combating inequality in the health care delivery and financing system.  Professor Clark serves on the board of the HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance (HALSA), which is developing a new MLP.  She also writes the Health Care Justice Blog. 
Elizabeth Levy, M.D. 
Elizabeth Levy completed her medical education at the University of Southern California in 2008 and is currently a member of the inaugural class at the University of California at Irvine School of Law.  Elizabeth completed an internship last summer at HALSA where she was responsible for creating a plan for the expansion of HALSA’s services into an MLP.  She has studied and researched the MLP model extensively and is in the unique position of representing both the doctor and lawyer perspectives.  She has also presented on the future of health care reform as it relates to underserved patients.
The program will be moderated by WLALA Business Development Committee Co-Chairs Linda Hatcher and Courtney Powers
To register for this event, please CLICK HERE.
Courtney Powers is Co-Chair of the Business Development Committee.