National Center Initiatives

As the leading voice for medical-legal partnership, the National Center engages in education and research to foster a system where all health orgs leverage legal services to better address health-related social needs. Below are a few of the projects we’ve embarked on to create that culture shift.

1. Original research on medical-legal partnership

Our research examines how health care and legal organizations are working together to screen and treat patients’ health-related social and legal needs, how this work is being financed, and how to overcome structural issues inherent in cross sector work. Recently, we released issue briefs on screening, MLP practice, population health, and information-sharing. We’ve also authored reports specifically on the MLP approach in health center and veteran health care settings.

  2. Funding for health center-based MLPs

The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership’s work was instrumental in a federal policy change at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allows federal health care dollars to pay for civil legal aid.

3. The Social Determinants of Health Academy

The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership co-leads The Social Determinants of Health Academy, a HRSA-funded virtual training series designed to help health centers and primary care associations develop, implement, and sustain social determinant of health interventions in their clinics and communities. The SDOH Academy doesn’t focus on a single intervention; instead multiple national organizations come together to offer a coordinated curriculum on community-based SDOH interventions.

From September 2016 to February 2017, 58 health centers and PCAs participated in The SDOH Academy pilot that included trainings from how to better screen patients for SDOH needs to how to build the health care and community team needed to address them. Information on the second year of the Academy will be available in early 2018.

4. Federal agency roundtable on the opioid crisis

In September 2017, we teamed with the Office for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable to host a meeting on the ongoing opioid crisis and how medical-legal partnerships can play a role in alleviating its effects. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA, SAMHSA and ASPE), the Department of Justice, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Legal Services Corporation, the Social Security Administration, and several national partner organizations. Participants gained a better understanding of areas where legal services could support recovery, and opportunities for legal, health, and public health agencies to collaborate to support patient care. The group discussed potential pathways to support these types of partnerships, and agreed that the next step is to raise awareness of these linkages with colleagues at their various agencies, and to reconvene to explore further opportunities.