New Medical-Legal Partnership Pilot Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock to Make Legal Assistance Accessible for Young Families in Need

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This pilot project makes critical legal assistance support available to many families to improve health outcomes for themselves and their developing child(ren) during important times in child development, creating a positive impact.

Holly Gaspar, Senior Community Health Partnership Coordinator, D-H Community Health Improvement

Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) has secured funding for a two-year pilot medical-legal partnership (MLP) program to benefit families with young children in the Upper Valley and Sullivan County. D-H will work with legal partner New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) to host this program at two clinical sites. Funding for the program began in September for early planning and runs through August 2023.

Families eligible for this program must be pregnant or have at least one child under the age of 5. An MLP focuses on identifying health disparities in communities and addressing individuals’ unmet legal needs related to social conditions, the physical environment or inadequate knowledge of or access to available public benefits. MLPs help address complex health and social needs, like ensuring emergency access to insurance benefits, preventing employment and education discrimination, and securing housing and preventing unwarranted and illegal evictions. Many people cannot afford legal help to address these complex problems.

Funding for this pilot program is supported by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Couch Family Foundation, and D-H. The combined funding from all three organizations for two years is $300,000. The project hopes to then secure long-term funding and expand beyond its pilot phase as an incremental step to improving access and services for families.

“This pilot project makes critical legal assistance support available to many families to improve health outcomes for themselves and their developing child(ren) during important times in child development, creating a positive impact,” said Holly Gaspar, Senior Community Health Partnership Coordinator for D-H Community Health Improvement. “To support this effort, D-H will provide broad staff education around legal rights of patients, in particular those impacting social determinants of health needs, as well as offer a Project ECHO series open to educate the community at large on medical-legal challenges that can be identified during a clinical encounter. We extend our sincerest gratitude to our funding organizations, our pilot clinical locations and NHLA for making this program possible. We know many families have been, and more so now than ever, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope is to reach these families and improve their future health and wellness.”

“NHLA is delighted to partner with D-H to help families solve health-harming legal problems,” said NHLA Executive Director Sarah Mattson Dustin. “We are grateful for D-H’s leadership on this pilot project, which will bring civil legal aid to families in settings they already know and trust.”

For more information on the MLP pilot program, contact Gaspar at holly.a.gaspar@hitchcock.org.

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock

DARTMOUTH-HITCHCOCK HEALTH (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across Northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,400 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named in 2019 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 13 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health also includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.