Funded by a $2.6 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the University of New Mexico’s law school is partnering with UNM Health Sciences Center (HSC), a member of America’s Essential Hospitals, to provide legal services to children and families living under the poverty line.
The new initiative, headed by the Corinne Wolfe Center for Child and Family Justice, aims to improve New Mexico’s rank as the 49th state for child well-being, which partly reflects poor environmental conditions, lack of access to health services, and low economic status. Underlying legal problems – barriers to housing, for example – also can contribute to poor health.
“We’ve seen growing recognition by the HSC and [UNM Hospital] of the significant role an attorney or attorney-in-training can play as part of a health team,” said Andrew Hsi, MD, a professor at the UNM School of Medicine, who helped create the state’s first Medical-Legal Alliance for Children.
A preliminary study by UNM in May 2014 revealed that in some communities, more than half of low-income families seeking legal help were turned away. Other areas in the state completely lacked accessibility to legal assistance.
“The implementation of this award will aid [these families] to have increased access to legal advice and representation to resolve complicated social determinant issues and to achieve better health and justice outcomes,” Hsi said.