Resources for Behavioral Health Settings

This page provides information to team members and administrators in behavioral health settings about how medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can contribute to effective care for patients and families.

The Connection Between Legal Needs and Behavioral Health

It is well recognized that income, housing, education, employment, and legal status all play a significant role in the health of patients. Unmet needs in these areas inhibit effective behavioral health treatment. Behavioral health professionals can more effectively promote recovery and maximize community integration for their patients by leveraging medical-legal partnerships.

Patients are more likely to have effective interactions with the health care system and receive the services they need by integrating legal care as an essential component of behavioral health care. Click here to view a chart of exactly how addressing legal problems can improve health and reduce health care utilization.

How Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Behavioral Health Settings Meet Their Mission

Behavioral health conditions are often chronic in nature and commonly require a variety of interventions and supports, including medical and psychosocial treatments, family participation, and community resources. The medical-legal partnership approach can be used to promote the most effective prevention, treatment, and recovery practices for behavioral health conditions in the following ways:

  • Engaging patients and families in their behavioral health care. MLP intervention reduces barriers to care and empowers patients with the legal and social supports to improve their wellbeing.
  • Helping behavioral health practitioners work at the top of their licensure. Behavioral health practitioners are able to focus their efforts on a patient’s behavioral health needs rather than social or legal issues, like poverty and homelessness, that would otherwise inhibit the delivery of care.
  • Enabling delivery of high-quality care. Medical-legal partnerships develop social determinants of health screening questions and toolkits to help behavioral health team members manage the range of problems that vulnerable patients experience outside the four walls of the clinic – from safe housing to access to social supports.

Behavioral Health and Medical-Legal Partnership Webinar Series

The behavior health and medical-legal partnership webinar series was created to support the development of medical-legal partnerships in behavioral health settings, provide peer support among behavioral health MLP practitioners, train MLP practitioners on topics relevant to behavioral health, and develop common resources.

Behavioral Health and MLP: The Social Determinants of Mental Health
Watch the webinar recording [60 minutes]

Ruth Shim, MD, MPH, provides an overview of the social determinants of mental health, gives specific examples of public policies and social norms that impact mental health at the population level, and shares concrete steps that can and should be taken by Behavioral Health-MLPs and behavioral health providers who wish to become more engaged in policy development and advocacy. Ruth Shim, MD, MPH, is the Vice Chair of Education and Faculty Development and Chief of Outpatient Psychiatry Services in the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Dr. Shim is also the co-editor of the 2015 book The Social Determinants of Mental Health.

Behavioral Health and MLP: Applying Recovery-Oriented Practices to Behavioral Health MLPs
Watch the webinar recording [60 minutes]

What does “recovery” mean in the field of mental health? How can legal aid attorneys and paralegals support recovery among mental health patients? How can behavioral health medical-legal partnerships promote recovery-orientated practices? Marianne Farkas, ScD, Co-Principal Investigator at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, addresses these and other questions. Dr. Farkas has conducted trainings nationally and internationally on rehabilitation and recovery for the past 25 years.

Behavioral Health and MLP: Special Education Advocacy
Watch the webinar recording [60 minutes]

It is well established that access to a quality education is a key factor influencing health outcomes later in life. Unfortunately, many children and young adults with mental illness face barriers to an adequate education, including delayed or under-identification for special education services, inadequate or inappropriate educational placements, and disproportionate removal from the learning environment due to overly punitive school discipline. In this training, three behavioral health-focused MLP teams from Washington D.C., Cleveland, OH, and New York, NY, discuss their approach to improving educational and health outcomes through integrating mental health providers into education advocacy.

Working within a Behavioral Health MLP: Ethical & Practical Considerations for Lawyers & Paralegal
Watch the webinar recording [60 minutes]

Lawyers and paralegals who work within a behavioral health setting may experience unique challenges in serving clients with a history of mental illness and/or substance abuse. Through case studies, this training examines options for addressing and overcoming various barriers to effective communication and representation. While the session references the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the focus is on practice strategies. This session was led by JoHanna Flacks, JD, Legal Director of MLP | Boston, and Mallory Curran, JD, Senior Advisor to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

Behavioral Health and MLP: Trauma-Informed Care Training
Watch the webinar recording [120 minutes]

While taking a trauma-informed approach to care is a core value of many behavioral health organizations, the concept of a trauma-informed legal practice is a new one for many legal aid and legal services lawyers and paralegals. Learn more about what trauma is and how it impacts patient-clients, begin to identify strategies to improve the way you deliver legal care, and discover where to find additional resources. This 2-hour webinar was led by Lisa Parsons, JD, Supervising Attorney of the Homeless Outreach Project at Legal Council for Health Justice, and Lisa J. Wiese, LCSW, MSW, Qualified Mental Health Professional at Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago

Behavioral Health and MLP: Nuts and Bolts
Watch the webinar recording [60 minutes]

Behavioral health-focused medical-legal partnerships in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Baltimore, Maryland share ideas for starting or strengthening a behavioral health-focused MLP program.

Resources Specifically for Behavioral Health Settings

Article: “MFY Legal Services, Inc.’s Medical Legal Partnership with Bellevue Hospital Center: Providing Legal Care to Children with Psychiatric Disabilities”
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An article in City University of New York Law Review examines how the medical-legal partnership approach is particularly well-suited to address the needs of children who live with mental illness and come from low-income families.

Article: “Helping Veterans with Mental Illness Overcome Civil Legal Issues: Collaboration Between a Veterans Affairs Psychological Rehabilitation Center and a Nonprofit Legal Center”
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An article in Psychological Services describes the collaboration between a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) community-based psychosocial rehabilitation center and a nonprofit legal center that primarily addresses the civil legal issues of Veterans who have mental illness and/or are homeless. The authors discuss the most common types of civil legal matters that are handled in the legal center. Experiences of the legal center suggest that legal services provided within VA facilities may be beneficial for Veterans.

Article: “Medicaid Expansion – Driving Innovation In Behavioral Health Integration”
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A new article on the Health Affairs blog details how Medicaid expansion is leading to more behavioral services that are better coordinated. Authors Jack Hoadley and Adam Searing from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families reference medical-legal partnership as one of the innovations helping to address physical and mental health.

Article: “MFY Legal Services’ Mental Health – Law Partnership”
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An article in The Clearinghouse Review discusses how New York City’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, community mental health providers including NCY Health + Hospitals, and MFY Legal Services, Inc. work together to meet the legal needs of adult mental health consumers in inpatient and outpatient settings to mitigate outside stressors to facilitate stability and recovery.

Behavioral Health MLPs in the Media

Article: “Indiana health center pays for attorney for behavioral health patients”
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The Indiana Lawyer shares how the medical-legal partnership between Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health and Indiana Legal Services is helping families get the care they need.

Article: “Clinic for the Homeless to Open in Oakland”
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KQED announces the opening of an integrated medical clinic in Oakland, CA that incorporates behavioral health care, legal services, and social services.