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Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

Ballad Health, Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech create Medical-Legal Partnership

Ballad Health is partnering with the Appalachian School of Law (ASL) and Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business to help those in need get legal assistance – which can lead to better healthcare and healthier lives in the Appalachian Highlands.

The three organizations have established a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) that combines health and legal services at a single site of care. A multidisciplinary team, including ASL students and faculty and lawyers representing the Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society and Legal Aid of East Tennessee, will work together to address medical and social/legal problems that have an impact on overall health.

“As a health system, we’re here not just to treat people when they need care, but also to help them improve their overall health in other ways, outside the clinical world,” said Ballad Health Chairman and CEO Alan Levine. “This is about helping people overcome the obstacles they might have in getting access to healthcare.

“Just like our efforts to promote child literacy or educate families about safety and healthy habits, this partnership with Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech can really make a difference in someone’s health.”

Studies have shown these partnerships reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of health outcomes. Across the nation, 450 health provider organizations and 58 law schools participate in MLPs, operating in 49 states.

Del. Terry Kilgore, chairman of the Southwest Virginia Health Authority, represents Virginia’s 1st District and was instrumental in getting state approval for the MLP.

“This partnership will be a great asset for our region,” he said. “The legal help people receive will make a huge impact on their health. I’m extremely appreciative of the Appalachian School of Law and Ballad Health for stepping up to create this service for our community.”
Medical-legal partnerships can:

  • Assist patients in getting emergency financial relief available through unemployment benefits and the CARES Act and in avoiding housing evictions, which were suspended under federal and state laws
  • Help eliminate barriers to patients obtaining lifesaving medications
  • Assist patients who are disabled from work in obtaining disability benefits, including Medicare or Medicaid coverage
  • Help patients appeal wrongful insurance coverage denials
  • Help people with complex conditions avoid repeated trips to the emergency room by helping secure housing and affordable medicines
  • Connect patients and families to critical resources that affect health, such as food banks, domestic violence shelters and suicide prevention assistance
  • Help recover costs for hospitals, such as by challenging insurance coverage denials

The MLP is dedicated to education and the development of the next generation of medical providers and attorneys with specific training in the unique reality of the health, social and economic environment in the Appalachian Highlands.

Former Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth A. McClanahan, President and Dean of Appalachian School of Law, said the school is “delighted to join Ballad Health and Virginia Tech in this innovative partnership.

“It brings together the triune synergies of medicine, law and business to address two critical needs that we can most effectively impact together as one team – improvements in education and health outcomes."

The partnership includes Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, which will contribute descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics to track and measure the program’s success, thereby turning raw medical and business data into actionable knowledge.

Pamplin’s Dean Robert T. Sumichrast said, “We anticipate the results from research conducted through our partnership with Ballad Health and the Appalachian School of Law will document the value of this medical-legal partnership to the health of people in our region and to its economic wellbeing. The research will also help other parts of the country design MLPs that make social and economic sense.”

MLP researcher Dr. Quinton J. Nottingham added, “In addition to the value of this program to the socioeconomically disadvantaged patients in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, this program will also provide some valuable real-world analytics experience to the students in the Pamplin College of Business.”

Under the guidance of Dr. Nottingham, the students will analyze the effectiveness of the MLP by developing the intake forms, surveys and other metrics used to evaluate the impact the MLP has on its patients, Ballad Health team members and the communities Ballad Health serves.

The ASL students, supervising attorneys and ASL and Virginia Tech professors participating in the MLP pilot program have received training on Ballad Health’s HIPAA privacy and security policies, as well as its telehealth system.  

Suzan E. Moore, former senior vice president, administration and chief human resources officer of Contura Energy, Inc., is also joining the program as executive director.

Arrangements can be made for in-person legal sessions, as well as by video. Appalachian School of Law can also take consultation referrals by email or phone call.

“Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also given the challenges in the Appalachian Highlands, it’s extremely important that everyone in our region has access to quality healthcare,” said Sen. Todd Pillion, a pediatric dentist, who represents the Commonwealth of Virginia’s 40th Senatorial District. “Thanks to this medical-legal partnership, a lot more people will have the opportunity for better care who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks of the system.”