This story originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal here.
Camden residents are getting a joint medical and legal clinic, thanks to a new initiative from Rutgers School of Law-Camden, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.
Called the Medical-Legal Partnership of Camden (MLP), the clinic will provide patients with combined primary healthcare and pro bono law services, such as assessing legal needs and identifying appropriate courses of action.
A typical client, Rutgers law professor Kimberly Mutcherson imagines, would be one with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, but who has had difficulty qualifying for entitled benefits, and is therefore not getting the care or medication needed to stay well.
“That is the kind of need that can be fulfilled by a student lawyer from our medical-legal partnership,” said Mutcherson, who has been helping spearhead the project.
Or imagine a family living in an apartment with rodents or mold that worsen a child’s asthma.
“Getting the landlord to comply with laws related to safe and sanitary housing is the work of a student lawyer,” Mutcherson said. “If faced with a patient who is not competent to make his own health decisions, a lawyer could help get a guardian appointed to assist in ensuring access to healthcare for that patient.”
The Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors announced initial plans for the clinic Tuesday at its regular meeting. The board has promised to give $25,000 from its $5 million yearly budget to initiate the new program, Kris Kolluri, board CEO, said.
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Early plans for the clinic will use existing space at Cooper Medical School.
“In the future, it would be wonderful to have a space built specifically to accommodate the needs of the MLP, but there are no plans for that on the near horizon,” Mutcherson said.
There are four slated phases of the project. The first phase, which is in effect now, is all about researching the patient population, soliciting funds and “having lots of meetings,” Mutcherson said.
Phase 2 will hire staff, determine which legal and medical work the clinic will take on and create new courses to be taught in conjunction with the clinic. Phase 3 will be a continuation of Phase 2, except that the clinic’s heads will be recruiting more players — including students. This will all lead up to an expected launch in spring 2016.
Phase 4, Mutcherson said, will focus on making sure that the clinic is supported and sustainable. It should end around spring 2017, she said excitedly, “at which point we expect to have a thriving MLP in Camden.”
Image via Flickr User Tom Ipri-30-
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