New center on Buffalo Medical campus helps patients with legal problems

Apr 30, 2019

Imagine having a medical emergency that requires a long hospital stay. Now imagine being evicted from your apartment while you recuperate. Buffalo General Hospital and Gates Vascular Institute on Tuesday announced the opening of a new center to help patients with their legal troubles.

Karen Nicolson
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

The MedLaw Partnership is a joint effort of lawyers and the medical community to help those in need. Services are provided free of charge. Karen Nicolson, CEO of The Center for Elder Law & Justice, said the partnership strives to help people who have run into bad situations.

“If somebody is ill, but they’ve lost their job and are looking for another one, they miss appointments for their treatment,” Nicolson said. “They also have a lot of stress in their lives that impacts their ability to heal. So marrying those two professions together, lawyers and doctors, really looks at the patient holistically and provides better outcomes.”

Nicolson said people who are in those vulnerable situations and people with lower incomes deal with the legal system more often than people with greater means. Oftentimes they get lost in the legal shuffle and do not have the resources to hire an attorney. That is where Nicole Komin, MedLaw Kaleida's project director and attorney, steps in.

Nicole Komin
Credit Thomas O'Neil-White

“I get a phone call. I get a referral. Actually they fax me a referral,” Komin said. “And the referral has the patient's name on it. I go meet with the patient one on one. I determine whether or not it is something we can assist with. If it is, I take it on as a case.”

Komin stressed the importance of MedLaw, saying many times a person’s legal issue is a barrier for them being discharged from the hospital.