Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Approved as a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP)

The Georgia Department of Community Health has approved the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) as a medical-legal partnership.

Although 46 states have health centers and hospitals that operate medical-legal partnerships, Georgia is only the second, after New York, to have codified medical-legal partnerships into state law. Having statutory recognition of the partnerships opens the door to potentially obtaining funding and grants, said the former director of HeLP and clinical professor of law Sylvia Caley (M.B.A. ’86, J.D. ’89).

The designation is possible because of Caley and students enrolled in her 2013-14 health legislation and advocacy class, who researched and drafted the initial bill that was introduced in the House and eventually signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.

“HeLP sought to obtain this recognition as part of a plan for long-term sustainability, and as such made passage of legislation a systemic advocacy priority,” Caley said. “I also thought it would help encourage other health care systems in the state to start a medical-legal partnership if we potentially could facilitate access to future financial resources to support their development.

Unbeknownst to Caley when she decided to make the effort a class project, one of her students was Representative Trey Kelley (J.D. ’14) of Georgia House District 16. Kelley, who has a large hospital in his district, saw the utility of medical-legal partnerships as a way to provide more comprehensive health care solutions for people.

“I bought into the bill personally and philosophically,” said Kelley, an attorney with Parker & Lundy in Cedartown. “If there is a way to deliver more effective treatment to someone to reduce the number of ER visits the mother makes with a child we need to pursue it. I thought ‘Let me take a swing at this.’”

Kelley, Bryan Jacoutot (J.D. ’14), and Kimberly Ramseur (M.P.H. ’15) performed the background legal research and drafted the proposed legislation. After a few legislative twists and turns, the bill overwhelmingly passed. Deal signed it into law on April 21, 2014.

Under the law, the Georgia Department of Community Health is authorized to approve medical-legal partnerships that meet and comply with standards and guidelines established by the department for purposes of determining eligibility for grants available through the state or from other sources. The department finalized the standards in late fall 2017.