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MVLS partnering with GBMC to offer legal services for older adults

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service is launching a collaboration with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center to offer legal services to older adults in communities near GBMC’s newly relocated hospice facility.

The partnership is the result of a $25,000 grant from GBMC, which has also committed to a second year of funding.

MVLS will offer free civil legal help to residents living in the neighborhoods near the Gilchrist Center Baltimore at Stadium Place, including the Waverly and Greenmount areas.

“We really can each play a critical role in helping stabilize an individual in their community,” said Susan Francis, the executive director of MVLS. Francis said that her organization can help address some of the social determinants of health, such as housing, alongside the medical care that GBMC provides.

“If we’re serious about health outcomes, if we’re really serious about people living healthy lives, there has to be this step back to, what are all of those day-to-day experiences that are going to affect it?” Francis said.

The legal assistance will include estate planning to help older adults sort out issues with home titles, accessing tax credits and relief funds, and using Baltimore’s home repair programs, which can fund modifications like wheelchair ramps, grab bars and other upgrades to help residents age in place.

Problems involving deeds can be especially challenging in multi-generational households, where residents may have never had their name placed on the deed of a home that was passed down from a loved one, Francis said.

That can affect eligibility for assistance programs, such as home repair funding, that can help older adults stay in their homes as they age.

Estate planning can preempt deed issues, Francis said, and MVLS offers other services to help untangle complicated deed problems after the fact. The legal assistance will help preserve family wealth and assets for future generations, as well as protect older adults who need help remaining in their homes, she said.

MVLS will work with community partners to inform residents about how legal services can be helpful as they get older.

As the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services in Maryland, MVLS can help older adults in a variety of ways, including with assigning a power of attorney, resolving deed issues, and stopping exploitative debt collection.

“We are embracing a broader view of what happens to our older patients when they leave the care of our hospital and return to their local neighborhood. We recognize that adults need stable and reliable housing, so they can age in place longer,” said Catherine Hamel, the president of Gilchrist Center Baltimore and executive vice president of Continuing Care at GBMC HealthCare.

“With MVLS’ help, we are hopeful more adults will have the services and programs needed to maintain and renovate their homes as their abilities and needs change, so they can comfortably and safely remain in their homes and with the people they love.”