I often get questions about underserved areas of practice that other lawyers might not have thought of, so when I see what I think may be a potential new practice opportunity I like to mention.
A few days ago I came across an article in the New York Times titled When Poverty Makes You Sick, a Lawyer Can be the Cure. It outlines the ways in which sub-standard housing conditions can contribute to the ill health of occupants and the steps that some metro hospitals around the country are taking, through medical-legal partnerships, to combat the often illegal conditions the treating physicians contend are making, or keeping, their patients sick. Then, this morning I heard a report on NPR entitled New York Debates Whether Housing Counts as Health Care. According to the report, Common Ground, an organization which creates and manages housing for the homeless, claims that placing an individual in an apartment costing $24,000 per year can prevent an estimated expenditure of $56,000 per year on shelter stays and emergency room visits. The debate centers around whether Medicaid should pick up the tab for such capital costs, even if doing so does demonstrably save the program money.
For lawyers who are interested in access to justice issues and medical and landlord-tenant law, this could be an opportunity to write your own job description with your local non-profit hospital, provided you are also willing to seek out some initial sources of funding to get it off the ground.