A number of national organizations have developed policies and started initiatives to help health organizations adopt legal services as a strategy for addressing communities’ health-related social needs.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an organization of more than 60,000 pediatricians, recognizes the connection between health-harming social needs and child health, and that lawyers can be a critical part of the pediatric care team. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics passed a resolution “encouraging closer and more frequent collaboration between legal service and medical professionals,” and specifically promoted medical-legal partnership as a strategy to improve the health and well-being of children.
American Bar Association
A professional organization with more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association (ABA), led by its Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, was an early leader in the movement to bridge the care gap between legal and health needs for vulnerable Americans. Building off the legal profession’s deep commitment to pro bono legal services, the ABA developed the MLP Pro Bono Support Project, an in-house technical assistance center that engages and grows the private bar’s support of medical-legal partnerships across the U.S. The ABA also passed a resolution in 2007 encouraging all in the legal profession to dedicate time at medical-legal partnerships to specifically address patients’ health and well-being.
American Medical Association
The American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest association of physicians and medical students in the United States and it is committed to bettering medicine in order to improve public health. As doctors increasingly see the importance of addressing legal needs as part of health, the AMA Board of Trustees released a report in 2010 encouraging physicians to develop medical-legal partnerships and the AMA to partner with national legal organizations to better address patients’ health-harming legal needs.
Association of American Medical Colleges
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) represents all accredited medical schools and nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, and works to strengthen medical care by supporting the entire spectrum of education, research, and patient care activities conducted by its member institutions. In April 2015, the AAMC’s Accelerating Health Equity Advancing through Discovery (AHEAD) initiative launched a three-year learning cohort to evaluate the impact of medical-legal partnership on (1) patient and community health; (2) cost savings, institutional benefits, and efficiencies; and (3) student, resident, and/or fellow educational outcomes. Medical-legal partnerships at Children’s National Health System (Washington, D.C), Emory University School of Medicine (Atlanta, GA), and Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis, IN) were awarded grants to participate in the cohort. Click here for more information on this project.
Equal Justice Works
Equal Justice Works is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers to expand legal services for vulnerable populations. Over the last decade, dozens of Equal Justice Works Fellows have provided preventive legal care to underserved communities through medical-legal partnership projects serving immigrants, homeless veterans, and cancer and sickle-cell patients. There is an increasing desire on the part of law firm and corporate sponsors to fund Equal Justice Works Fellows working on medical-legal partnership projects.
Health Resources and Services Administration
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically or medically vulnerable. In October 2014, HRSA modified its funding eligibility rules to allow health centers to use federal “enabling services” funds to pay for on-site civil legal aid to help meet the primary care needs of the population and communities they serve. Since July 2014, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership has had a National Cooperative Agreement with HRSA to serve as a technical assistance center to help health centers adopt and grow medical-legal partnership services for their patients.
Healthy Start (A program of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration)
The Healthy Start program is an initiative mandated to reduce the rate of infant mortality and improve perinatal outcomes through grants to project areas with high annual rates of infant mortality. In 2010, Healthy Start funded a pilot to integrate medical-legal partnership services in Healthy Start home visiting programs in three cities. Results showed improvements to patient well-being, provider satisfaction, and health care cost savings.
Legal Services Corporation
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States. LSC provides financial support to 134 independent legal aid organizations with more than 800 offices serving every county in every state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S territories. LSC-funded legal aid organizations serve low-income people with legal issues involving housing, child custody, protection from domestic violence, and access to food, health insurance and appropriate education services. More than 80 LSC grantees, almost 60 percent of all LSC-funded organizations, partner with health care institutions on medical-legal partnerships that provide legal care and address the holistic needs of patients.
National Association of Community Health Centers
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is the national health care advocacy organization for America’s medically underserved and uninsured and the community health centers that serve as their health care home. NACHC is a core partner alongside the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership in the Social Determinants of Health Academy, a 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.
National Legal Aid and Defender Association
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) provides advocacy, guidance, information, training, and technical assistance for members of the equal justice community to improve delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. They weave medical-legal partnership content into all of their conferences and convenings to help engage legal practitioners in the public, private, and government sectors in work with health care partners.
National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
The National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC) works to advance nurse-led health care through policy, consultation, programs and applied research to reduce health disparities and meet people’s primary care and wellness needs. The first nurse-managed health center incorporated legal care and medical-legal partnership into its health care services in 2008. In 2013, NNCC received a grant from The Kresge Foundation to help its member sites develop medical-legal partnerships, and in 2016 it authored an issue brief on medical-legal partnership in nurse-led settings.
Network for Public Health Law
Both the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) and the Network tor Public Health Law (NPHL) support and encourage the use of law to address social and structural determinants of poor health. The organizations accomplish this goal through distinct but complementary approaches: while NCMLP works to spread and support the medical-legal partnership approach as a tool for combating upstream causes of poor health, the Network for Public Health Law (NPHL) provides substantive legal technical assistance to practitioners to support their public health law and policy efforts. An NCMLP and NPHL-led initiative seeks to amplify the impact of both organizations through a collaborative and bidirectional working relationship. This partnership has produced scholarship, webinars, a coffee klatch series, and other resources to help guide the legal field in their policy work, which are available on NPHL’s website.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), charged with providing patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents, is on a mission to end homelessness among Veterans. To that end, VA leadership has paved the way for rapid growth of medical-legal partnerships targeting vulnerable veterans. VA Medical Centers have welcomed legal services providers on-site to provide care for Veterans, and 25 VA medical centers have developed fully integrated medical-legal partnerships as a way to provide more comprehensive care for veterans’ health and help prevent homelessness.