The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership and Association of Clinicians for the Underserved Launch New Partnership to Increase Access to Justice and Health Equity

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Logo with text for the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at The George Washington University.  Logo for Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, abbreviated as ACU.

The Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU) and the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) are excited to announce a new partnership which aims to shift the culture of health by helping all ACU members use medical-legal partnership (MLP) to improve health equity, increase access to justice, and strengthen the health care workforce.

We have long recognized that health is a function of much more than healthcare and genetics. Almost 90 percent of an individual’s health is determined by social and environmental factors, many of which are deeply entrenched in a complex system of laws and policies that require expertise in poverty law and administrative law. 

MLP is an evidence-based SDOH intervention that embeds lawyers as specialists in a health care setting to resolve health-harming legal needs of individual patients. MLP also strengthens the health care workforce by helping clinical and non-clinical staff understand structural and systemic barriers, navigate policy issues, and transform institutional practices to improve patient care. By integrating legal services for patients into the health care delivery model, we can disrupt the cycle of returning people to unhealthy conditions that harm their health and threaten our ability to provide high-quality care to those who need it most. 

Established in 1996 and founded by a transdisciplinary team of National Health Service Corps members, ACU is a uniquely transdisciplinary membership network uniting clinicians, advocates, and organizations to lead advocacy, clinical, operational and equity excellence to develop and support clinicians and the healthcare workforce caring for America’s underserved communities. ACU supports thousands of clinicians and organizations each year with technical assistance, programs, advocacy, and more. NCMLP was founded in 2006 by a similar transdisciplinary team of medical and legal practitioners. Based at The George Washington University, NCMLP leads education, research, and technical assistance efforts to help every health organization in the United States include legal services as a standard part of their response to health-related social needs. ACU and NCMLP have a shared vision of transforming systems to achieve health equity and improve population health.  Unity and collaboration are essential to making this vision a reality.

Through this national-level partnership, ACU and NCMLP will:

  • Raise Awareness: Educate our mutual networks on the value of MLP and how these partnerships can be advanced to fulfill the organization’s mission and better serve their patients.
  • Develop a Community of Practice: Develop an MLP community of practice to help ACU members learn how to implement an effective MLP model, discover research to strengthen their approaches, and network with other MLP practitioners working at the intersection of health and justice.   
  • Engage in Advocacy through Law & Policy: Leverage high-impact opportunities for ACU members to engage in policy or legal advocacy that aim to increase access to justice and health equity. 

This new partnership recognizes that it is in the best interest of underserved communities to work collaboratively. It recognizes that we cannot achieve health equity without addressing access to justice. It seeks to fortify a bond between healthcare and legal services providers helping the people who comprise underserved communities. It also challenges other national organizations, funders, and policymakers to join us and our partners as we create a system of whole person health.

Please join ACU and NCMLP on October 25th at 1pm ET for a listening session to learn more about the partnership and how we will collaborate to improve health equity, increase access to justice, and strengthen the workforce for the underserved.  

Register Here