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Medical Clinic Forms Partnership with VLSP to Help Patients in Need
Sister Mary Philippa Clinic at St. Mary’s Medical Center Joins with Volunteer Legal Services Program and Latham & Watkins Law Firm to Provide Access to Legal Services for Clinic Patients


August 5, 2010  – San Francisco – St. Mary’s Medical Center today announced the launch of a new program that will provide legal assistance to patients at the Sister Mary Philippa Clinic through a partnership among the clinic, the Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP) of The Bar Association of San Francisco, the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, and the St. Mary’s Foundation.

Funded by Latham & Watkins and the St. Mary’s Foundation, the program provides a resident attorney at the clinic one day per week for the next year. Physiciansand clinic staff can refer a patient for a legal consult the same way they would send a patient for a needed medical service. The attorney will assess the patient’s legal needs and assign them a volunteer attorney from the VLSP program. Volunteer attorneys will help patients with legal issues they have in areas such as health insurance, housing, and social advocacy.

“St. Mary’s is committed to serving the San Francisco community, and to caring for our neediest residents regardless of their situation. This partnership will help us further our ability to provide comprehensive care for our patients, and to help them achieve total wellness,” said Anna Cheung, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Medical Center. “We are very excited about this program and we thank our partners Latham & Watkins and VLSP for collaborating with us in this effort to provide legal aid to patients in our clinic setting.” 

The Sister Mary Philippa Clinic provides a coordinated program of comprehensive outpatient health services to patients from the San Francisco community, and supports St. Mary’s mission by treating patients regardless of their ability to pay. Approximately 1,700 of the clinic’s patients have no health coverage and receive their care free of charge or at a reduced rate. Many clinic patients’ medical needs are further complicated by social, environmental and other circumstances which have a negative effect on their ability to lead healthy, safe lives.

“Legal services are good for one’s health,” said Tiela Chalmers, Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Program of The Bar Association of San Francisco. “Through this partnership, patients are provided the legal services needed to ameliorate issues that adversely impact their health, safety, and overall well being.  St. Mary’s staff of doctors, nurses, social workers, and counselors are active partners in the project, which integrates legal services into the host of medical services offered at the clinic, so that patients have a real shot at improving their living conditions, economic status, and well-being.” 

Chalmers goes on to say that, "Increasingly, law firms are looking for pro bono projects that give them the opportunity to work in partnership with their corporate clients.  This partnership magnifies the impact of the pro bono work.  It also gives the firms a chance to demonstrate to their clients their commitment to the community, gives them a first-hand look at their lawyering skills, and offers the firm attorneys invaluable facetime with in-house counsel - frequently fairly senior in-house counsel.  On the corporate side, the partnerships offer them an opportunity to get involved in the community in a way that would not be possible without the backing of law firm support structures.  This partnership was created because CHW and Latham already had a strong relationship, and this project aims to cement that relationship."

Gerald Peters, a partner in the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins who has spearheaded the firm’s support for the program, added: “Our firm works with hospitals and healthcare facilities such as St. Mary’s Medical Center on a daily basis -- and we also have one of the most active pro bono practices in the country – so we are acutely aware that legal services can play a key role in delivering efficient and practical support across the healthcare spectrum, and especially to assist the most needy members of our community.” 

The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8104