New medical-legal partnership advocates for sick kids

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - When a child is in the hospital, the first thing on a family's mind is, of course, the health of their child.

But once they go home, many low-income families face new challenges, which often can only be resolved with costly legal advice.

Now a first-of-its -kind, free partnership is helping Houston area families heal once outside the hospital doors.

At birth, Pamela Brown's grandson, Kaylon, was only given a week to live.

She explained, "Kaylon was born with hydrocephalus (and) cerebral palsy. He is developmentally delayed."

He is now 14 years old.

Brown quit her job to care for him.

Kaylon needs 24-hour supervision and even though Pamela is his sole caregiver, she's not his legal guardian, which has led to costly road blocks.

She explained, "I tried to get guardianship, but it's a lengthy process. The attorney charges so much that I cannot afford (it). So when I heard about this program, I thought, 'Golly, this was the best thing that ever could've come about and happened with me.'"

With financial support from Walmart, Texas Children's Hospital along with the Houston Bar Association's Houston Volunteer Lawyers announced a new medical legal partnership.

An onsite dedicated staff attorney will help families pro bono with legal advice, anything from negotiating with a landlord to improve poor living conditions causing a child's asthma to fighting for health benefits.

TCH General Counsel Lance Lightfoot told Local 2, "We provide world class health care, but when they leave our doors, there are a lot of things that can affect their health and they need legal assistance to help them with those issues."

Mark A. Wallace, TCH president and chief executive officer said, "It has always been our mission to help low-income children with all of their medical needs. This program is just another example of how we are doing that."

Walmart executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Gearhart said, "This announcement furthers our goal to help create a network of medical-legal partnerships at children's hospitals across the country."

Brown added, "This program is a Godsend. It really is."

This new partnership is dedicated to serving the estimated 50 percent of TCH patients who are on Medicaid and CHIP.

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