Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Awards Research Grant to LegalHealth and CVLC

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BMS_logo (1)The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has awarded a research grant to the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) to study the impact of civil legal services on mental health and quality of life outcomes for veterans receiving treatment in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health and homeless programs. The grant is part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative that focuses on community-based solutions to aid in the much-needed response to the mental health and community reintegration needs of veterans, military service members, their families and families of the fallen.

NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division and CVLC were awarded grants of $330,700 and $365,980, respectively, to study the medical-legal partnership (MLP) model in VA hospital settings. An MLP is a healthcare delivery model that brings legal professionals together with medical professionals to serve low-income patients within a healthcare setting. MLPs are designed to help patients address their legal problems, such as unstable housing conditions or lack of health insurance and other benefits that impede treatment or endanger a patient’s health and recovery. The Project pairs CVLC, an MLP which serves exclusively veterans, with NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division, which operates the country’s largest MLP through its onsite clinics at 20 healthcare facilities.

Over the course of the two-year study, independent VA researchers will evaluate the impact of MLPs on veteran patients at two VA settings in New York, and two in Connecticut. If successful, the results will be used to promote the adoption of VA MLPs nationwide, as well as to identify best practices for serving other vulnerable populations with mental health and related social issues.

“Too many of our nation’s veterans and families are struggling in silence after they return home and find themselves fighting a new battle. The lives of our brave men and women are still on the line, long after their combat deployments are over and we have a moral responsibility to provide veterans with access to quality mental health treatment and care,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. “I look forward to the results of this important study which will help examine how innovative medical-legal partnerships can provide the support and tools our VA hospitals and veterans need.”

NYLAG currently operates MLPs at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx and the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System in Manhattan, while CVLC operates MLPs at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System’s West Haven and Newington Divisions, all of which will participate in the study. NYLAG and CVLC attorneys coordinate with medical staff to identify and serve veterans with pressing legal needs, including eviction prevention, obtaining public benefits, and debt collection.

“NYLAG is immensely grateful to Bristol-Myers Squibb for identifying medical-legal partnerships as an area worthy of intensive research and evaluation,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG President and Attorney-in-Charge. “Under the leadership of LegalHealth’s Director, Randye Retkin, we are excited to work with our partners at CVLC toward the day when many more poor and near-poor veterans receive the legal assistance they need to improve their lives.”

“Lawyers are important members of the team helping veterans rebuilding their lives. We are all so grateful to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate empirically the reduced stress and anxiety veterans feel when they have a lawyer on their side,” said CVLC Executive Director and Co-Founder Margaret Middleton.

Click here to download a PDF of our press release.