In July 2014, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) was awarded a National Cooperative Agreement (NCA) from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help health centers cultivate and sustain medical-legal partnerships. As part of the three-year award, the NCMLP serves as a technical assistance center developing toolkits and providing trainings for health centers. This page provides health center team members and administrators with resources specifcally to help develop a partnership at a health center.
How Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Health Centers Meet Their MissionCurrently, 139 health centers and community-based clinics in the U.S. have a medical-legal partnership, 77 of which are Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). By adopting an integrated health care, public health and legal services approach to patient care, medical-legal partnership helps health centers meet their missions by:
- Ensuring the medical home care team includes an expert in the social determinants of health who is equipped to use legal tools to resolve social problems. Having a lawyer on the team not only helps to address specific health problems in patients that occur from wrongly enforced or underenforced laws and policies, but also helps healthcare team members screen patients more effectively and inform policies that are affecting the health of the whole community.
- Enhancing the quality of care. Medical-legal partnerships help develop social determinants of health screening questions, enhance the Electronic Medical Record, and develop toolkits to help healthcare team members manage the range of problems that vulnerable patients experience outside the four walls of the clinic – from safe housing to access to basic safety net benefits. Watch Pediatrician Alicia Turlington from Kōkua Kalihi Valley health center in Hawaii below share why she can’t imagine practicing medicine without an attorney.
- Ensuring maximum revenue for health centers. Medical-legal partnerships help patients successfully enroll in insurance programs by helping the health center understand and address complex administrative barriers in coverage, which results in reimbursement for services.
- Empowering patients to participate in their care. Patients at health centers with medical-legal partnerships are more vocal about the social problems affecting their health and learn to be self-advocates.
Civil Legal Aid as an Enabling Service
In 2015, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) clarified that civil legal aid may be included in the range of “enabling services” that HRSA-funded health centers provide to meet the primary care needs of the population and communities they serve. This means that health centers can apply for enabling services funds under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act to support the work of attorneys and civil legal aid in their clinics. Click here to see the language about civil legal services (page 23) and watch the clip below to hear Suma Nair, Director of the Office of Quality Improvement at HRSA, share what it means for civil legal aid to be considered an enabling service. You can also download our issue brief that extrapolates lessons from six health centers that used HRSA expanded services awards for legal-related enabling services.
Resources Specifically for Health Center-Based MLPs