HeLP Legal Services Clinic Celebrates 10 Years of Advocating for Children’s Health and Well-Being
By Leslie Wolf, professor of law and director of the Center for Law, Health & Society
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Health Law Partnership Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University’s College of Law. In a decade, the clinic has educated more than 625 students while simultaneously serving more than 250 Georgian children and their families with legal problems affecting their health. These numbers are just part of the story of the HeLP clinic.
The clinic is an integral part of the award-winning and internationally recognized Health Law Partnership (HeLP), a medical-legal collaboration among Georgia State Law, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. The concept behind HeLP is that improving the health and well-being of low-income children’s health requires health-care providers and lawyers to work together. For example, a physician can treat a child during an asthma attack and help her breathe easier. But the child will continue to experience exacerbation of her asthma unless something is done to eliminate her exposure to mold in her home that triggers the attack. That is where lawyering – to help with housing and benefits issues, for example – can help.
The collaboration between health-care providers and lawyers is not always a natural one. Physicians often have a negative view of lawyers, perhaps viewing them as a threat through the lens of medical malpractice. But in the clinic, law students not only work with medical students and residents from Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University School of Medicine, they may also work with graduate students in public health, social work and bioethics from Morehouse College, Emory University and Georgia State University. This interdisciplinary collaboration not only breaks down barriers among the professions, but also prepares students for their future work, which will undoubtedly involve interprofessional engagement.
Students often describe their experience in the HeLP Clinic as the best experience in their legal training and transformative. The HeLP Clinic directors, Sylvia Caley (M.B.A. ’86, J.D. ’89) and Lisa Bliss, hope the experience is a lasting one and are conducting research to evaluate the impact on students’ attitudes and behaviors in the future. For example, they ask medical students and residents about their knowledge about social determinants of health and the role of law in addressing them, as well as their attitudes about lawyers. They also ask law students about their attitudes toward pro bono activities.
This short description of the activities and achievements of the HeLP Clinic explains why it was named as one of the 25 most innovative clinics in the United States by National Jurist. The clinic and its faculty have become international models of excellence and an inspiration to others who seek to replicate its impact on students and its clients. Georgia State Law is proud of what the clinic has accomplished in its 10 years and looks forward to its next decade.
Leslie E. Wolf is a professor of law, with appointments in the College of Law and the School of Public Health, and the director for the Center for Law, Health & Society. She conducts research in a variety of areas in health and public health law and ethics, with a particular focus on research ethics. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Greenwall Foundation. This work includes research on conflicts of interest, research with stored biological materials, Certificates of Confidentiality, IRB Web guidance and HIV-related laws and policies.