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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals Expands Patient Access to On-Site Legal Services for immigration Concerns

Immigration-focused legal services now available at seven patient care locations, growing the country's largest medical/legal partnership

Expansion of services in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx funded by $300,000 from the New York City Council

Apr 25, 2019

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced the expansion of patient access to on-site legal services for immigration issues, building on its longtime partnership with LegalHealth to address patients’ legal matters and concerns. The new immigration-focused legal services will expanded to NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings, two major NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health community-based centers in Brooklyn and the Bronx (/Morrisania and /Cumberland), and offer expanded hours of service in NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in Manhattan. The expansion of this program, funded by $300,000 in FY19 by the New York City Council, represents a vital patient service offered by the public health system. Providing critical legal services supports NYC/Health + Hospitals patient population, and contributes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to guarantee health care for all New Yorkers.
The new immigration-focused legal services will offer Health + Hospitals patients legal support to address matters related to residency, citizenship, visas, asylum and concerns related to the pending federal “public charge” proposal. These services are now available at a total of seven patient care sites, which also include: NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur, and NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. This is an expansion of one of the longest-running and largest medical/legal partnerships in the country which dates back to 2002 and has provided free legal assistance to thousands of New Yorkers seeking help with housing, public benefits, health insurance, advance planning, family law, and employment.
“Helping provide legal services is an important way for us to uphold our mission — promoting the health of all our patients, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay,” said Dave Chokshi, MD, Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Taking care of the whole patient sometimes means helping them handle legal concerns, which may be impeding their ability to lead healthy lives.”
“Bringing immigration legal services to trusted community spaces is pivotal to making NYC the fairest big city in America,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This funding builds on the City’s tremendous investment in these services, which include ActionNYC sites at NYC Health + Hospitals facilities. Now even more New Yorkers will have the resources they need to tend to their medical and legal needs.”
“In an era in which immigrants’ rights are constantly under attack, it is imperative for New York City to be vigilant in ensuring that immigrants are protected, and that protection extends to immigrants who are admitted to the City’s hospitals. The Council is proud to invest in on-site legal services for immigrants at H+H facilities and I thank the de Blasio Administration for its continued partnership in standing up for all immigrant New Yorkers,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
“Free and reliable immigration legal services are critically important given the current political situation in the U.S.,” said Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth at the New York Legal Assistance Group. “We at LegalHealth are grateful to have the opportunity to provide these services, in partnership with Health + Hospitals, to many patients who are living in fear and in need, and who might not otherwise be able to assert their legal rights.”
Between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2019, over 6,800 patients engaged with New York Legal Assistance Group for legal service assistance at NYC Health + Hospitals, involving over 8,900 total legal matters. Of those, 3,700 (42%) legal matters were handled by immigration attorneys. The majority of legal matters handled for NYC Health + Hospitals patients by LegalHealth have a successful outcome for the patients. LegalHealth has 15 attorneys and seven paralegals on site across all 11 public hospitals. Referrals to attorneys are typically coordinated by the public health system’s social workers and can be secured within one or two weeks.
The medical-legal partnership between NYC Health + Hospitals and the New York Legal Assistance Group also features attorney-led trainings of health care and social service providers on a number of topics, including immigration. Over the past 24 months, the New York Legal Assistance Group has trained almost 800 staff at NYC Health + Hospitals and its community partners on immigration issues.
“As safety net health systems increase their focus on addressing the social needs of patients, medical-legal partnerships are growing,” said Kalpana Bhandarkar, Social Determinants Lead in the Office of Population Health at NYC Health + Hospitals. “We’re so pleased that our medical-legal partnership is helping thousands of families in New York City each year, while also informing similar programs around the country.”
“Hospitals often greet people at their most vulnerable. By making immigration legal services available and accessible at more NYC Health + Hospitals locations, including facilities in Fort Greene and East Flatbush, we are one step closer to ensuring that no New Yorker will have to put their immigration status before their health and safety,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“The NYC Health + Hospitals-NYLAG partnership is a great example of integrating health care and legal services,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “Legal services can make a big difference in a wide range of factors crucial to a patient’s health outcome — benefits and coverage, housing, family law issues, immigration, etc. I commend Health + Hospitals and NYLAG for their work on this important effort.”
“These expanded services will help our most vulnerable community members overcome obstacles related to their immigration status,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “My district is home to the largest number of immigrant families in the state. I am pleased that NYC Health + Hospitals is doubling down on its efforts to protect my constituents, including offering this medical-legal partnership at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. I celebrate this progress and will continue to work alongside the administration to ensure that our city remains a safe haven for all people.”
“In a time when immigrant communities are increasingly under attack, the decision to expand on-site legal services for New Yorkers in need shows the value of an inclusive city with policies that serve all populations. Together with my colleagues in the City Council, I am glad to support such a valuable initiative and thank H&H for their contributions to the community,” said New York City Council Member Keith Powers.

“The hardworking members of the immigrant community deserve the best medical and legal services available, and I want to commend NYC Health + Hospitals and LegalHealth for their efforts to provide these resources. By expanding the on-site services available to our immigrant residents, we are providing a much needed benefit to them and their families. It is my hope that by working together we can continue to increase the availability of legal services for those most in need,” said New York City Council Member Mathieu Eugene.
“NYC Health + Hospitals has always been committed to providing exceptional patient care, and today’s immigration services expansion announcement further exemplifies their dedication to serving the community,” said New York City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “I commend NYC Health + Hospitals for not only listening to their patients and their needs, but responding with action, growing their on-site legal services.”