National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership moves to its new home at the George Washington University

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) announced today that, thanks in part to funding from The Kresge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is launching the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP), a project aimed at ensuring every low-income individual has access to legal care as part of comprehensive healthcare.

“Fifty million low-income and vulnerable Americans have legal problems that contribute to poor health and prevent them from getting the healthcare services they need,” said Co-Principal Investigator of NCMLP Ellen Lawton, JD, Lead Research Scientist in the Department of Health Policy at SPHHS. “When a family is made sick by mold in their apartment, or a senior is wrongly denied insurance coverage, part of the care they need to get healthy is legal assistance.”

More than 230 hospitals and health centers across the United States have partnered with legal aid agencies and law schools in their communities. At these medical-legal partnerships (MLPs), attorneys provide direct legal assistance to patients at the healthcare institution, and work in partnership with doctors, nurses and social workers to improve institutional and systemic policies that impact the health of patients.

NCMLP, a project of SPHHS’ Department of Health Policy, will lead research and policy activities aimed at sustaining existing MLPs and scaling the model nationally. Among other things, the SPHHS’ research expertise will help measure impact of MLP on healthcare costs as well as on patient health and well-being.

“The School of Public Health and Health Services has a strong background in supporting and scaling innovations in healthcare that impact vulnerable people like the elderly and poor,” said Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy at SPHHS and Co-Principal Investigator of NCMLP. “As the landscape of healthcare shifts in America, we know that solutions like MLP, which address underlying causes of poor health and leverage the expertise and resources of multiple professions, will play an important role in a modernized, more efficient, more effective healthcare system.”

NCMLP’s Advisory Council includes Jack Geiger, MD, who founded the community health center model as well as the organization Physicians for Human Rights. Also on the Council is Deborah Leff, JD, Acting Senior Counselor for the Access to Justice Initiative at the U.S. Department of Justice, which enhances civil legal representation for middle- and low-income Americans. She is past president of the Public Welfare Foundation.