Health Justice Partnerships (HJPs) are a new model of collaboration between lawyers and health professionals to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for people who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or at risk of harm. St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) and Justice Connect have partnered together to establish a new HJP to provide support for older patients with legal issues, with a focus on suspected elder abuse.
Health problems and legal issues can be interconnected. A frail older person experiencing poor health and/or abuse from a family member may require both medical support and legal advice. SVHM Senior Social Worker Meghan O’Brien says: “Elder abuse is often hidden or unnoticed. Older people may feel shame or fear and may be more comfortable raising their worries with a health professional. This can provide a ‘window of opportunity’ for hospitals to identify and respond to older people who are at risk or experiencing abuse.” SVHM already has in place staff training, a policy and a model of care for the protection and support of vulnerable older people.
Justice Connect brings valuable experience in providing legal assistance to older people. The service will provide free and confidential advice to SVHM inpatients as well as patients accessing the hospital’s various clinics and community programs. This initiative is funded by Seniors Rights Victoria and St Vincent’s Health Australia. Please contact the Social Work Department at SVMH on 9231 3436 for further information about the partnership.