HeLP Provides MLP Model for Other Schools, including ones in Macon, S.C.

Sylvia Caley (M.B.A.'86, J.D. '89

Sylvia Caley (M.B.A.’86, J.D. ’89) and HeLP colleagues helped start one in Macon among Mercer University School of Law, Navicent Health and the Georgia Legal Services Program.

In 2014, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed SB 352, authorizing government funding of medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) that meet specific standards and making Georgia the second state after New York to endorse MLPs. Health Legislation and Advocacy students at Georgia State Law helped draft the bill under the direction of Sylvia B. Caley (M.B.A. ’86, J.D. ’89), clinical professor of law, director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) and co-director of HeLP Legal Services Clinic.

With the passage of the bill, Caley was hopeful more communities would create medical-legal partnerships throughout Georgia. She and HeLP colleagues helped start one in Macon among Mercer University School of Law, Navicent Health and the Georgia Legal Services Program.

“When we established HeLP, one of the primary goals was to serve as a model for the development of other programs. We are honored to have been able to assist Macon in the development of its MLP,” Caley said.

The lawyer designated for the new Macon partnership, Tara Vogel (J.D. ’14), is familiar with HeLP and jumped at the chance to be part of the team in Macon.

“I was a student in the HeLP Clinic and loved my time there,” Vogel said. “Through that experience, I learned that when a person is facing a health problem, the last thing they should have to worry about is a legal issue causing or exacerbating the medical concern. Particularly for the low income or elderly, a medical-related legal barrier can have severe consequences. I wanted to join our MLP to help make a difficult time in a person’s life a little easier by removing any legal obstacles.”

The Macon MLP’s client base spans more than 20 counties, and Vogel considers one of the partnership’s greatest benefits the combined resources and efforts of the three organizations involved.

“Each partner organization has an honest desire to improve the lives of our patients/clients, and they understand the unique challenges that serving rural areas creates,” Vogel said. “Combining our resources and efforts will allow us to reach more people than we do individually.”

The MLP is located at the Navicent hospital, allowing the legal and medical teams to closely work together to achieve results.

“This proximity has helped quickly establish a good relationship between medical workers and the partnership and has allowed for a quicker exchange of information,” Vogel said. “I already feel like I am a part of the team for each patient/client and that my legal contribution is just one factor that assists the patient in achieving their health goals.”

Vogel said Georgia State Law and HeLP have been an invaluable resource to the Macon partnership. “Sylvia Caley and the rest of the HeLP team have met with us many times, answering questions, offering advice, sharing sample forms, etc. We are extremely grateful for their guidance and support.”

Caley and members of the HeLP Clinic have provided their consulting services to other locations, including Case Western Reserve School of Law and Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and the law and medical schools and legal services program in Memphis, Tenn.

In May, Emily Suski, who taught Family Law and was a clinical supervising attorney for the HeLP Clinic, was recruited to start an MLP at the University of South Carolina School of Law. She’ll apply her learnings from HeLP to develop a beneficial partnership in that community.

“Other groups seek our counsel because we have three community partners committed to establishing and sustaining our MLP: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Georgia State Law,” Caley said. “We have a model program of offering direct client services, professional education programs, systemic advocacy, and program evaluation, research and scholarship.”

With their focus still on MLP expansion in Georgia, Caley and her team have a meeting planned in December with physicians in Augusta.