Meeting health needs through access to justice

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In a given three year period nearly 50 per cent of adults in Canada face at least one everyday legal problem. Medical-legal partnerships recognize that patient health is affected by more than physiological factors, and that legal issues can cause or worsen health problems.

Here at the health centre, the IWK Family Legal Health Program (FLHP) offers free legal assistance to eligible IWK Health Centre patients and family members when a legal issue is impacting a patient’s health. The program is a partnership between the IWK, the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS) and the law firm McInnes Cooper.

IWK staff and physicians identify potential clients, complete application forms and send the applications to IWK FLHP Social Work Liaison Staff who then refer them to LISNS for assessment of eligibility. If appropriate, the file is then referred to McInnes Cooper for possible pro bono representation.

“The program can help relieve stress and can give these families a sense of control and confidence,” says IWK social worker Jackie Pidduck. “Even if they may not win a case, families are often reassured by the support they receive.”

“The program can help relieve stress and can give these families a sense of control and confidence.”

Since its inception in 2015, the IWK FLHP has helped with 55 legal issues, providing close to $200,000 worth of administrative, educational and legal services. During those three years they have addressed areas of law such as guardianship, housing, education, immigration and employment.

While the FLHP covers legal fees it does not cover disbursements. Disbursements are out-of-pocket expenses that might have to be paid to third parties, like court filing fees or government fees.

A representative from LISNS is available the first and third Tuesday of each month 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the IWK Social Work office to provide legal information to patients and families. Staff are also welcome to drop in to the clinic to consult about a patient or family.

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