Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Launches First U.S. Program to Provide Legal Services to Diabetic Patients
Innovative Program Modeled on Silicon Valley Medical Legal Partnership at SCVMC
On March 11, 2009, the Diabetes Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley officially launched a new program to serve the legal needs of low-income residents who live with diabetes. Called The Diabetes Law Collaborative at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, this is the first program in the United States dedicated to providing legal services to individuals living with diabetes, through a medical-legal partnership model.
“Diabetic adults face a complex health care regimen that they must attend to on a daily basis or risk hospitalization or life-threatening complications,” states Tyler Aguinaldo, MD, Director of the Diabetes Center at SCVMC. “Many have complex social, financial and legal situations that result in significant barriers to being able to participate in the management of their increasingly complex chronic disease.”
“Patients with diabetes often fear losing a job due to a diabetes management regimen that requires blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, frequent breaks, and sick leave to attend medical appointments,” added Jessa Barnard, an attorney with the Law Foundation and an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Cigna Foundation and Jenner & Block LLP. The Law Foundation is providing legal services through the Collaborative.
In addition, adults with diabetes often do not understand when they might be eligible for financial assistance such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, State Disability Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Even when they are aware of possible eligibility, there is often a fear of repercussions connected with utilizing assistance that a legal consultation might ease.
“Each of these difficulties curtails good diabetes management,” explained Dr. Aguinaldo. “Knowing that there are legal options and having support to address some of these stressors can improve the diabetes patient’s quality of life and compliance with his or her treatment plan.”
Since opening in March, the program has already assisted close to twenty clients with issues ranging from wrongful termination from employment to Medi-Cal eligibility to a mobile home eviction.
Services will become more critical as the number of individuals diagnosed with diabetes in Santa Clara County continues to grow to crisis levels. As of 2005, more thanb 70,000 individuals in the county were diagnosed with diabetes; another 600,000 were at risk of developing the disease.
Through the Diabetes Law Collaborative, medical staff refers patients for legal consultation with a Law Foundation attorney for issues ranging from lack of health insurance, nutrition, housing and income supports to employment and insurance discrimination. With proper releases of information signed by patients, the attorney and medical staff work together to assist patients in overcoming barriers to their diabetes management. The attorney also develops legal training and referral guides for medical providers, prepares legal self-help materials for patients, and joins patient education efforts. Patients can also self-refer to the program by calling the Collaborative intake line at (408) 280-2476. Services provided are free and confidential.
The Diabetes Law Collaborative is modeled after the Silicon Valley Medical Legal Partnership at SCVMC, which launched on January 14, 2009. The Department of Pediatrics at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Legal Advocates of Children and Youth (LACY) partnered on this new program— the first medical legal partnership in operation at a county hospital in California—to provide free help to children with legal needs that affect their health and well-being.
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center provides health care to one in six children in Santa Clara County, more than any other hospital in Silicon Valley. Clinic visits exceed 120,000 per year. Funding for the Medical Legal Partnership comes from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County and from donations.
“Children and youth can have several important unmet legal needs that can dramatically affect health, such as living in substandard housing or not being able to access appropriate special education services in schools,” according to primary care pediatrician Lee Anna Botkin, MD, the Medical Director of the Medical Legal Partnership. “Having the medical legal partnership running in our clinic allows us to us to refer patients to on-site, free, and culturally appropriate legal care to help solve complex problems that affect well-being.”
“LACY has 19 years of experience representing kids in Santa Clara County, and we have expertise in special education, family law and guardianships; our organization has the experience and ability to provide high quality legal care to patients at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center,” says Crisanne Hazen, staff attorney at LACY and at the Medical Legal Partnership.
Since opening in January, the Medical Legal Partnership has received over 60 referrals for issues like educational advocacy, housing habitability, guardianships and teen parents. The Medical Legal Partnership has also organized trainings for medical providers, nurses and staff on legal issues that affect children. With proper releases of information by families and youth, legal and medical staff can work jointly to address issues that affect health, and to prevent crises like homelessness or poor access to needed services.
Pediatrician Barry Zuckerman, MD, Boston MA, founded the first Medical Legal Partnership program. Dr. Zuckerman is also is the founder of the early literacy program, Reach Out and Read, where patients at well child visits are given new, age-appropriated books to keep. Currently, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is the nation’s largest participant in Reach Out and Read.
Both legal partnership programs at SCVMC are part of a national medical-legal partnership movement, which aims to improve the health and well being of vulnerable individuals, children and families by integrating legal assistance into the medical setting.
For more information on the Diabetes Law Collaborative and the Law Foundation please contact Jessa Barnard at (408) 280-2402 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the Diabetes Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, please contact Dr. Tyler Aguinaldo at (408) 885-2268.
About Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is the largest hospital in Silicon Valley. Founded in 1876, the hospital has forged a long tradition of service and dedication to the health of the whole community. SCVMC cares for thousands of hospitalized patients and provides more than 700,000 out patient and emergency visits annually.
In addition to a high level of basic service, SCVMC provides sophisticated specialty medical programs, many of which are locally available only at SCVMC. Specialty services include a world-class Rehabilitation Center, ranked as one of the nation's best for spinal cord and head injuries, Regional Burn Center, Trauma Center and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The American College of Surgeons has designated SCVMC as a level 1 adult and pediatric trauma center, the highest level possible.