Kitchener-Waterloo

Rural Wellington County residents can connect to legal help at local health offices

Telemedicine has made it easier for low income rural residents in Guelph stay close to home when they need to access legal help. A method similar to Skype helps residents connect to lawyers at their local health offices.

Low income residents who need legal help can use the telemedicine network to video chat

The Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County can now offer legal services via video chat, thanks to a partnership with local health care providers in Wellington County. (Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County)

Low income rural residents in Wellington County won't have to go as far to access legal help. A new partnership between Guelph Community Health Centre and the Rural Wellington Community Team allows rural clients to use a telemedicine system at their local Family Health Team clinic to connect with legal help through a video chat system, similar to Skype.

Anthea Millikin, a lawyer and the executive director of the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County, told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris that moving into a new office made all the difference. 

"We moved into the Guelph Community Health Centre a year ago and because of that, we have access to the Ontario Telehealth Network," she said. "With that access we can speak with other Telehealth centres, there are a number of them in the county and a number of Family Health Teams."

The Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County offers free services to low income individuals in rural areas as far away as Mount Forest. But the group's only office is in Guelph, so many of these people can't get help because of the difficulty of getting to Guelph, according to Millikin. 

She adds that for the most part, many people will find a way to get to a doctor's appointment and while they are there, they can take the opportunity to connect.

"What we figure is, people will go see their doctor," she said. "People trust their doctors, they trust their health team. That's the kind of connection we want to make and it's so important to us."

Through an encrypted video call residents can access legal help in the areas of housing, income and tenant issues during their appointments and show lawyers any documents they might have to determine the next step.