JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health, two higher-education institutions and the Southwest Virginia Health Authority have teamed up to help the region’s residents better access health-related services.
The Medical-Legal Partnership is a joint effort of Ballad; the Appalachian School of Law, based in Grundy, Va.; and Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. The project will use a team including ASL students and faculty, along with lawyers from the Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society and Legal Aid of East Tennessee, to help residents address medical, social and legal problems that affect their overall health.
The project will help the region’s residents and patients:
• Get emergency financial relief available through unemployment benefits and the CARES Act and in avoiding housing evictions, which were suspended under federal and state laws
• Overcome barriers in getting lifesaving medications
• Obtaining disability benefits when disabled from work, including Medicare or Medicaid coverage
• Appeal wrongful insurance coverage denials
• Avoid repeated trips to the emergency room for complex medical conditions by helping secure housing and affordable medicines
• Access critical resources affecting health, including food banks, domestic violence shelters and suicide prevention assistance
• Recover costs for hospitals in situations like challenging insurance coverage denials
Ballad CEO Alan Levine, in a statement on Tuesday, said the Medical-Legal Partnership goes beyond direct medical care to deal with associated social and business issues that can affect people’s health.
“Just like our efforts to promote child literacy or educate families about safety and healthy habits,” Levine said, “this partnership with Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech can really make a difference in someone’s health.”
Suzan E. Moore, a former Contura Energy, Inc. executive, is the MLP executive director. ASL students and faculty and Virginia Tech professors in the MLP pilot program are trained on Ballad’s HIPAA privacy and security policies and its telehealth system.
Southwest Virginia Health Authority Chairman and Virginia state Del. Terry Kilgore, R-1st, said the MLP also helps respond to authority concerns about the region’s overall public health.
“The legal help people receive will make a huge impact on their health,” Kilgore said. “I’m extremely appreciative of the Appalachian School of Law and Ballad Health for stepping up to create this service for our community.”
Virginia state Sen. Todd Pillion, R-40th and a pediatric dentist, said the MLP is important because of immediate challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and longer-term health issues facing Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.
“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,” Pillion said.
“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,” said ASL President and Dean Elizabeth A. McClanahan.
Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business will analyze data and outcomes from the MLP to track its success and provide analytics to measure the project’s effects.
“The research will also help other parts of the country design MLPs that make social and economic sense,” said Pamplin Dean Robert T. Sumichrast.