New medical-legal partnership provides free counsel to ANMC patients | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

New medical-legal partnership provides free counsel to ANMC patients

May 12, 2017

A new medical-legal partnership program aims to improve the health of our Alaska Native patients at Alaska Native Medical Center by reducing hardships brought on by social or environmental factors, which can negatively impact wellness.

ANMC will partner with Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) to provide the services, which can include: decision-making matters (such as power of attorney, guardianship, and Advance Directives), public benefits (such as denial, reduction or termination of Medicaid, SNAP, or Social Security), safety concerns (such as protective orders related to domestic violence or Elder abuse), housing issues (such as eviction, foreclosure, or rental conditions) and education system problems (such as a child’s special education needs or disciplinary issues). The services are free and available to eligible ANMC patients.

The partnership will improve ANMC’S ability to serve more of our people who need help with critical legal needs, many which negatively impact health. Health care providers often identify social determinants of health, but do not always have the resources to change them. ANMC health care providers will benefit from having an in-house resource where they can direct patients with legal problems that are potentially impacting their health.

How to get services
Patients can access the services by contacting the medical-legal partnership attorney on-site at ANMC, by phone at (907) 729-4451 or by visiting the office located outside of Quyana House weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

What patients should expect when contacting their medical-legal partnership attorney
When a patient first speaks with the medical-legal partnership attorney, the attorney will ask for a brief description of the person’s legal issues. Next, they will conduct a “conflict check” to determine if there is more to hear about the patient’s legal issues. If there are no conflicts, the attorney will conduct an intake interview to gather more information. After collecting that information, the attorney will determine if he or she is able to help. This may require consultation with other ALSC attorneys. If the medical-legal partnership attorney can help, the patient will either be fully represented or provided with legal advice. The attorney may also direct the patient to self-help resources or refer the patient to a different attorney.

About medical legal partnership and Alaska Legal Services Corporation
With help from the Rasmuson Foundation, in 2015 ALSC held a statewide meeting of Alaska Native leaders, legal and health care providers in Anchorage to introduce the idea of a medical-legal partnership and gauge interest in the community. The concept attracted significant interest from leaders across the state including Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium leadership. Given the level of interest in the initiative and with the support of the Native community, ALSC began to lay the groundwork for a medical-legal partnership with the Alaska Tribal Health System by partnering with Four Corners Legal Care and several Tribes to obtain the AmeriCorps funds needed to fund the Alaska expansion and place six AmeriCorps member attorneys in six Tribally operated health care facilities throughout Alaska to establish on-site availability of medical-legal partnership attorneys.

Alaska Native Medical Center is one of the six medical-legal partnership host sites statewide; the other host Tribal health partners in Alaska include SEARHC in Sitka, Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center in Fairbanks, Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Dena’ina Wellness Center and Norton Sound Health Corporation in Nome.

Founded in 1967, ALSC provides free legal assistance in civil matters to low-income Alaskans. Clients assisted by ALSC are facing critical civil legal issues ranging from consumer law, family law, housing problems, public benefits, health care complications, Tribal law, and other areas specific to veterans or the elderly. Over its 50-year history, ALSC has a longstanding history of advocating with Alaska Native partners to empower and bring resources to the Native community, and to assure equitable access to the civil justice system. Nearly 45 percent of those served by ALSC statewide are Alaska Native, and in its five most rural offices that number is closer to 95 percent.

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