Medical-legal partnership connects patients with services

(June 9, 2010) A new partnership between Seattle University School of Law and Swedish Medical Center will help connect elderly and disabled patients with vital home health services. 

The Medical Legal Partnership Public Benefits Assistance Project pilot project will get under way this summer. Four students are working with a Swedish social worker and Attorney-Coordinator Carla Calogero '09 to assist low-income patients who may be eligible for the Community Options Program Entry System (COPES). 

The COPES program provides in-home personal care services, skilled nursing, adult day care, transportation and other assistance to eligible patients. Many need help navigating the complicated system, said Diana Singleton, director of the Law School's Access to Justice Institute, which is coordinating the program. 

Law students will interview patients, help with applications, and follow up to provide referrals should the patients need legal assistance. The project, which started in early June and runs through August, will take place at Swedish/First Hill on Broadway, located just across the street from the west side of the Seattle University Campus. 

The interns will gain interviewing and issue-spotting skills, an understanding of the COPES program as well as related legal and social issues, and experience working in an inter-disciplinary setting. 

"Helping vulnerable patients find access to home health services is particularly important, especially with the current changes in health care and insurance on top of the difficult economic environment," said Interim Dean Annette Clark, M.D. "This pilot project reinforces our commitment to partnering with Swedish to serve our community and reflects our mission to work toward a more just and humane world." 

The hospital and law school intend for the pilot project to be the start of a long-term and multi-faceted, medical-legal partnership. Lisa Brodoff, director of the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic,  Gillian Dutton, director of the Externship Program, and Paul Holland, associate dean for Academic Affairs, are working with Karen Wyome, a licensed medical social worker, and Dr. Jay Fathi, medical director of Primary Care and Community Health, both at Swedish.

 "This partnership is a testament to Swedish's long-term relationship with Seattle University, its students and the Seattle community," said Swedish vice president of External Affairs Dan Dixon. "This pilot project will give elderly and disabled patients the ability to get legal assistance and, equally as important, assure that care providers at Swedish appreciate the legal dimensions of their patients' circumstances."

Library Stairs