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CHEO’s partnership with Pro Bono Law Ontario supports families facing legal struggles
Ottawa, November 27, 2013 — Imagine that your child is seriously ill and you are facing eviction from your home, or denial of your health benefits. This would be a nightmare for anyone. Fortunately, legal help is now available to patients at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), thanks to a new program. Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) at CHEO is a medical-legal partnership that was recently created to help low-income families resolve legal problems that may prevent them from focusing their full attention on caring for a sick child.

“CHEO’s goal is to better connect care within our walls and beyond our walls to help kids and families be their healthiest,” said Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO. “So we are really pleased to work in close collaboration with Pro Bono Law Ontario to help families resolve legal problems and focus on caring for their child in need.”

Pro Bono Law Ontario is a charity founded in 2001 to bridge the justice gap between lawyers who want to give back and the many Ontarians who can’t afford legal services. PBLO serves over 13,000 clients across the province each year.

Pro Bono Law Ontario recently partnered with CHEO and the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP to bring their services to Ottawa. At no cost to the eligible patient or family, the PBLO at CHEO program brings a lawyer into the care mix if legal issues are impacting a child’s health or the family’s ability to care for that child. The program covers a variety of legal needs such as employment, family law, immigration, health care coverage, tax law and more.

“Our goal as an organization is to bring services to people in need and break down silos between service providers”, says Lynn Burns, PBLO’s Executive Director. “This partnership with CHEO is a great way to help families who are so overwhelmed that addressing serious legal problems isn’t even on the radar for them.”

Pro Bono Law Ontario at CHEO will be an additional resource to offer CHEO patients and their families, complementing medical and social interventions to achieve the best possible outcome. Pro Bono Law Ontario provides its services at no cost to the hospital or to eligible families.

“PBLO just started up at CHEO in October, but already we can see benefits for patients and families,” notes Josée Blackburn, Social Work Coordinator and Professional Practice Leader. “There is a greater awareness among clinicians about legal issues and their remedies, and there is greater peace of mind for families when needing to access legal help.”

Through this program, PBLO Triage Coordinator Mihiri Senaratne is now a part of the CHEO team. Senaratne meets with families on site and provides services such as legal information, document preparation and referrals to volunteer lawyers for representation.

“Some families don’t know that their issue has a legal component. I can explain rights, offer options and help them solve their problems. It lifts a huge burden from families who have much more important things to worry about,” says Senaratne.

The program is anchored by CHEO’s social workers who will speak to families about their legal concerns, collect information, and then refer cases to the on-site Triage Coordinator. Families without a social worker can ask their medical team for a referral.

CHEO’s PBLO program is an opportunity to connect care and services within and beyond CHEO’s walls for children, youth and their families. The program’s benefits are significant and it marks the start of many “Connected Care” initiatives that are part of the CHEOnext strategy. To learn more about CHEOnext visit


For media inquiries, please contact:

Eva Schacherl
Communications Manager and Strategist, CHEO
613-737-7600 x 3536
Cell: 613-769-5553  

Lynn Burns
Executive Director, PBLO

416-977-4448 x 225  
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