Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Meeting: Cleveland and Medical-Legal Partnerships

As regular readers of this blog know (and we are setting a record for number of hits this month, so there seem to be more of them every month),  I have been working with public interest attorneys for the last few years, initially in a medical-legal partnership in Worcester called Family Advocates of Central Massachusetts and subsequently on the Children's Mental Health Campaign with Health Law Advocates of Boston.   Each year, there is a meeting of Medical-Legal Partnerships (this year in Cleveland) and this year, I am there.  The conference is all about advocacy; I am hoping to pick up some pointers that will help us in our advocacy efforts.  As goes along, I may pass along some of these tidbits for your perusal.  System change is hard:  we need all of the help we can get.
First speaker, Connie Schultz was brilliant.  She told stories, exhorting us to keep doing the good work with grace and a sense of humor.  She spoke of her experiences in shining light on injustice, and the power of a well written op-ed, reminding me that we need to write another one of those on children's mental health as the state is rolling out the Rosie D. initiative.
Then we got the report from the National Center (Megan Sandel, Ellen Lawton, Barry Zuckerman), from our national medical and legal leadership:  Medical-Legal Partnerships are everywhere:  81 around the country, working in 180 different kinds of health centers and practices in 37 cases.  The National Center has recognized that this practice model needs to include adults as well as children.  37 Law schools and 23 Medical schools have incorporated the partnership into some aspect of their training program.  The point was illustrated with cartoons-  worth looking at here without breaking the copyright laws. They closed by pointing out that we need to move the program into the sub-specialty programs to integrate Partnership into the medical system, and that the legal community should embrace the notion of preventive law.  Lots of potential for growth.
We then moved onto workshops:  more later.
First workshop was on "Environmental Health":  collaborations with Law Schools and Medical School to help families keep the heat on.  The students, of course, are amazed at how "real people" live, and find this a really interesting model of care.  Of note was a chance to meet Elizabeth Tobin Tyler, who wrote a marvelous account about of her experience in teaching law students and medical students together.
Then, we heard about "program advocacy"- how the medical "champion" can support the development of the program within the Medical Center.  Lots of ideas, all dependent on having passion and connection in equal measure.
Now we get eat lunch.
After lunch, I forgot that I was doing 2 workshops-  they went reasonably well, I suppose, but it is always hard to tell when you are the presenter.  We spoke of the trials of doing a multisite program, and the perils of evaluation.  Clearly the expertise in the room was tremendous.

I think that is all for today-  it is interesting that, among all of the services and needs of children in poverty that were mentioned today, mental health was not on the list.  I think that mental health is affected by social constraints, but I think that, when you are down and out, it does not rise to the top of your list.

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