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PHONE: (734)764-7260
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May 25, 2004

U-M Law School develops collaborative pediatric clinic

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Children who live in poverty are more vulnerable to health and developmental risks than children in higher income families. Complex issues contribute to this fact, and assisting these children may require more than simply a medical perspective. For example, a child’s asthma may be caused by mold.

A multidisciplinary approach using medical and legal advocacy, such as will be available through a new University of Michigan Law School program, can provide the necessary advice, counsel and direct representation that can challenge persistent legal barriers, such as the presence of mold, that affect children’s health and well being.

"This fall, a group of U-M law students will participate in its Pediatric Advocacy Clinic—one of the few law school-connected pediatric clinics of its kind in the nation. The clinic is part of a larger project, the Pediatric Advocacy Initiative, that is being developed by the Law School as part of its community outreach work with the Michigan Poverty Law Program.

The initiative partners legal advocates, including clinical law students, with the U-M Ypsilanti Health Center and the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Designed to supply legal assistance to low-income families in a healthcare setting, the clinic’s goal is to improve the health of low-income children and families through legal advocacy and policy reform.

Students taking the clinic will provide a range of advocacy interventions to address issues such as:
• Applying for food stamps or cash assistance;
• Litigating against landlords of substandard housing that cause health problems;
• Providing referrals and representation for victims of domestic violence;
• Navigating the special education system to ensure children receive legally required services; and
• Providing policy advocacy before government bodies and other advocacy organizations.

This fall, the first group of students in the clinic will work with clinic faculty to develop relationships with the doctors, nurses and social workers in each of the pediatric settings, and will work directly with clients to provide preventive care. Students will also train healthcare providers to help them better advise and advocate for their patients. Clinic casework will cover an array of issues that will likely include public benefits access and coverage, health insurance problems, domestic violence and other family law, housing law and ethical issues. The clinic is designed to provide a preventive rather than reactive approach to legal advocacy.

Clinical professor Anne Schroth worked with Bridget McCormack, U-M Law School associate dean for clinical affairs, to develop the clinic concept and structure.

"The clinic will not only serve a community need that has not been previously met, but it will also provide a unique entry point for students interested in poverty law and the legal issues that can complicate the health of low income children," Schroth said.

Law School

Contact: Nancy Marshall
Phone: (734) 764-6375
E-mail: nancylm@umich.edu