186432 Just what the doctor ordered: Medical-legal partnerships to achieve improved health for low-income children with disabilities

Wednesday, October 29, 2008: 1:30 PM

Yael Bina Zakai, Attorney (Esq) , Health Access Project, The Children's Law Center, Washington, DC
Health providers can address the medical needs of poor families, but legal barriers often stand in the way of sustained improved health outcomes for needy children with disabilities. Medical-legal partnerships address the non-medical needs of low-income children by adding a lawyer to the treatment team. For example, despite appropriate pediatric care, a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and learning disabilities struggled with daily joint pain, lack of academic progress, and impaired social-emotional functioning due to his school's failure to provide him with needed special education services. In collaboration with the pediatrician, an attorney effectively advocated for this child to receive the necessary school services. Consequently, he no longer suffers from daily joint pain and his health has improved.

While medical-legal collaboratives began as hospital-based operations, the Health Access Project (HAP) at Children's National Medical Center locates attorneys onsite at community pediatric clinics throughout Washington D.C. in neighborhoods where underserved families reside, increasing access to legal services for needy families with children with disabilities. Because HAP lawyers work from offices inside the clinic, medical staff can consult directly with them when legal intervention is needed. HAP attorneys have improved health outcomes for many children through advocacy in special education, access to health care, public benefits, family law and housing matters. HAP attorneys also provide trainings for clinic staff to educate them about legal issues facing their patients, and provide legal rights trainings directly to parents and caregivers of children with disabilities to empower them to advocate on their own behalf.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize the various legal issues that can create obstacles to sustained improved health for needy children with disabilities. 2. Understand how attorneys can become integral members of community health clinic treatment teams to better serve low-income children with disabilities and their families. For example, learn how an attorney’s intervention can help a child with autism access critical behavioral health services; learn how a lawyer can collaborate with a pediatrician to effectively compel a public housing agency to install a paved ramp for a child who uses a wheelchair to access his home; learn how an attorney’s advocacy through the special education process can secure required specialty nursing services for a child with a tracheostomy; and learn how an attorney can help overcome a denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a parent who needs the financial support to more effectively care for her child with cerebral palsy. 3. Analyze the ways in which collaboration between health professionals and attorneys can effectively improve health outcomes for needy children, through collaboration on individual patient advocacy, trainings, consultations, and other creative ways to partner to improve health for low-income families.

Keywords: Children With Special Needs, Disability

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Yael Zakai is a Staff Attorney at The Children’s Law Center’s Health Access Project (HAP), a medical-legal collaboration between The Children’s Law Center and Children's National Medical Center designed to improve the health of children by addressing non-medical barriers that impact children’s health and by providing a broad range of legal services to patients and their families. As an attorney on-site at Children’s National Medical Center’s Children’s Health Project, a community pediatric clinic, Yael collaborates with medical staff at the clinic to advocate together around the legal needs of the clinic’s child-patients. Yael originally came to HAP as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, with a two year grant focused on advocacy on behalf of children with mental health needs. Yael has developed and presented a variety of trainings and seminars for health providers, parents and guardians, children, and other attorneys on medical-legal collaboratives and on legal issues facing children and families. For example, Yael developed and presented a special education legal rights training to parents of children with sickle cell anemia, and Yael has presented several trainings to medical professionals at Children’s National Medical Center around the medical-legal collaborative model. Yael collaborates regularly with health professionals through her work, and participates in clinical rounds as part of the treatment team at The Children’s Health Project. Yael is committed to providing advocacy on behalf of children with disabilities. At Stanford Law School’s Youth and Education Law Clinic, Yael represented parents of children with disabilities in a variety of special education and school discipline proceedings. Yael has also advocated in a variety of settings on behalf of youth in the delinquency system, including assisting in the representation of children in delinquency proceedings in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and teaching students in juvenile hall and probation schools about the law and their rights. Yael graduated from Stanford Law School in 2005 as a Graduate with Distinction and is a recipient of the Rhode Public Interest Award.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.