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Bar News - May 23, 2008

NHLA’s Health Law Collaborative Expands to the North Country

NH Legal Assistance (NHLA) is expanding its innovative medical-legal collaborative project, the New Hampshire Health Law Collaborative (NHHLC), to the North Country, opening operations in Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Coos County Family Health Services, and Indian Stream Health Center.

The NHHLC combines the skills of two unlikely partners — doctors and lawyers — to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable low-income and elderly people in New Hampshire. Legal aid lawyers from NHLA work at health centers as "sub-specialists" — training medical staff both to identify — and to provide free legal assistance to resolve — a myriad of social and environmental problems and conditions that are affecting their patients’ health. The NHHLC also seeks to bring about systemic change to improve the health of large populations living in poverty.

"A person’s health cannot be effectively improved by relying on medical interventions alone," said NHLA Executive Director John E. Tobin, Jr. "Health is affected by both biological and social factors — and doctors — who are critical sources of preventive intervention for families — are ill-equipped to address social determinants of health. Lawyers and healthcare professionals working together, however, can often prevent illness and can give sick patients a better shot at recovery because they can address the full continuum of a person’s needs, including housing, food, education, health care and a safe, stable environment."

The NHHLC, one of 71 such medical-legal partnerships nationwide, was started in Manchester in 2005 in collaboration with Child Health Services, a non-profit health care organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of children from low-income families in the greater Manchester area. Based on its effectiveness in serving the unmet needs of patients in Manchester, the NHHLC is being expanded to three community health centers in the North Country: Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Coos County Family Health Services, and Indian Stream Health Center. The North Country Health Consortium is also partnering with the NHHLC by providing office space and videoconferencing for meetings and helping to organize accredited trainings for medical staff.

The NHHLC has been generously supported by the Endowment for Health, Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Greater Manchester Charitable Trust, Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation, Medical Legal Partnership for Children and New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s Advancement of Justice Fund and A.J. McDonough Family Fund.

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