Partnership between KU, LMH to provide free legal counsel to patients in need; hospital supports raising legal age to smoke

A new joint program between the University of Kansas School of Law and Lawrence Memorial Hospital that would provide legal counsel to some of the hospital’s neediest patients will likely launch within the next few weeks, it was announced Wednesday.

The medical-legal partnership would offer free legal services to low-income patients with health-related legal issues while giving KU law students a chance to build professional experience and earn credit working on those cases.

Juliann Morland DaVee, director and managing attorney of the program, described the new partnership as “another tool in their toolbox” for health care organizations.

“For example, maybe the provider is treating a woman who’s been returning to the emergency department — the doctor can treat those wounds, but maybe what she needs is an order of protection from abuse,” Morland DaVee told the LMH board of directors Wednesday.

Morland DaVee, working under the supervision of KU law professor Lumen “Lou” Mulligan, will begin the process of distributing forms to hospital departments early next week. She will manage cases as they surface over the next few months, with the goal of adding four to eight law students to the program in January.

In other news:

  • Joe Pedley, the hospital’s chief financial officer, provided new estimates from the Kansas Hospital Association on how Medicaid cuts in Kansas will affect LMH. According to numbers released last month by the KHA, the hospital will likely lose approximately $640,000 (that’s including lost revenue from across-the-board Medicaid cuts of around 4 percent as well as the state’s 4 percent cut to provider reimbursement rates) in fiscal year 2017. While numbers hovered between $500,000 and $800,000 in June, the new estimate is more accurate, Pedley said.

In May, Gov. Sam Brownback ordered the cuts to Kansas’ Medicaid program in an effort to balance the state budget. Andy Ramirez, an attorney representing LMH, told the hospital board Wednesday that the KHA, in collaboration with a group of attorneys, has sent a letter to the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services objecting to the cuts. Ultimately, it will be the center’s decision to enforce the reductions, Ramirez said.

  • The hospital has signed in support of Tobacco 21, a community-based health initiative aimed at raising the sales and purchase age of tobacco and nicotine products to 21. The initiative, which has been implemented in nearly 150 municipalities across the country (including several in the Kansas City area), is being spearheaded locally by LiveWell Lawrence, said Janice Early, LMH’s vice president of marketing and communications.

She said LiveWell Lawrence hopes to present a recommendation of the Tobacco 21 goals to the City Commission soon, with the hope of changing city ordinances.