Boston, MA — June 17, 2010 —The American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution this week in support of medical-legal partnership (MLP) as a means to improve the health and well-being of patients. The resolution, which encourages providers to incorporate legal assistance into healthcare delivery, was approved by the House of Delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago.
Resolution 7 (I-09) acknowledges that unmet legal needs have a significant impact on patient health and well-being, and that MLP, which integrates legal services in clinical settings, is an effective way to identify and resolve these problems.
"Through this partnership, the unmet legal or environmental needs of patients can be addressed before they reach crisis proportions," said AMA Board Member Dr. David O. Barbe in a statement released by the AMA. "The AMA encourages physicians to develop medical-legal partnerships, and we will help them do this by creating a model agreement and working with key stakeholders on education."
The resolution encourages collaboration between the AMA, physician groups and key stakeholder organizations to (a) educate providers on the connections between unmet legal needs and health, (b) provide resources to help physicians screen for patients’ unmet legal needs, and (c) assist healthcare providers in establishing MLPs.
The American Bar Association (ABA) passed a similar motion in support of MLP in 2007. A number of national and local organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have also voiced their support for MLP.
“This action by the AMA on medical-legal partnerships promises to advance an important and creative method for solving the problems of a struggling family or individual,” said Carolyn Lamm, President of the ABA. “The asthmatic child, disabled veteran and elderly widow are just a few examples of those whose lives can be positively changed when lawyers and doctors work hand in hand to address interrelated legal and medical problems.”
The growing recognition of MLP by professional organizations reflects the widespread acceptance of the model by healthcare and legal providers across the country. MLPs now operate at more than 200 hospitals and health centers nationwide, serving vulnerable populations including the elderly, the chronically ill, cancer patients, people with disabilities and children.
“Thanks to organizations such as the AMA, the MLP model we pioneered in Boston is receiving widespread support in the legal and medical communities and beyond, ensuring more people access to vital legal services,” said Dr. Barry Zuckerman, Chief of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and Founding Director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. “We are delighted to see that MLP is becoming a standard of care, helping thousands of individuals and families get and stay healthy.”