Lawyer At UMC Offers Legal Help To Patients

EL PASO, Texas - You probably don't think of doctors and lawyers as partners.

But a new program for infants has them working together at University Medical Center.

An attorney is now part of the health team at UMC, meaning nurses and doctors can write a prescription to patients for legal help.

"Our goal is to keep them out of the hospital, " said Dr. Merle Ipson, Director of U-M-C's Special care nurseries.

But sending a child home isn't always the best option.

Dr. Ipson said sometimes the child's living conditions at home aren't acceptable.

"We're talking about basic heat, frequently communication is an issue too, electricity, even running water, warm running water," Ipson said. "As a result, they end up right back in the hospital."

That's where attorney Jamye Ward comes in, representing families of sick children.

"We see people that are under stress that can't handle the paper work, or they've been served with legal process and they don't know what to do, or somebody says they have to move out but they don't realize you have to be evicted until you actually get an order signed by a judge," said Ward.

Locally, the medical legal partnership program has worked on more than 200 cases.

"Sometimes it's just going through the maze of the legal system," said Ward.

The program recently received a 20 thousand dollar grant from the Margaret G. Marsh foundation that will help low-income families get legal services inside the hospital.

"Most of our cases will be advice and counsel where they just have questions," said Ward.

Those questions that can give everyone caring for the child some peace of mind, "It decreases my anxiety when I send a kid into a home that's good," said Dr. Ipson.

Only 225 hospitals, out of thousands across the country, have a medical-legal partnership program.

The one at UMC has been in place for about a year.

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