An NLSLA-led project that was in imminent danger of disappearing is now optimistic about a possible path to full funding for the next three years.
Medical Legal Community Partnership – LA (MLCP-LA), an NLSLA-led project that places lawyers in medical settings to reduce racial and economic health disparities, was in imminent danger of disappearing just a few months ago, after major reforms to the state’s health services delivery model eliminated the project’s funding.
Launched in 2018, MLCP-LA provides legal assistance to the most vulnerable patients in Los Angeles, seeking sustainable improvements in the lives of individuals who suffer multiple social and economic stressors. In just four years, the project opened nearly 12,000 cases, helping people to access critical benefits, avoid eviction, find safety and stability after domestic violence, eliminate crippling medical debt, and address habitability issues like lead paint.
The project’s success provided clear evidence that the law can be a powerful tool in addressing underlying issues that may be causing or exacerbating health problems. So when NLSLA and its partners were told it would no longer be funded, they coordinated a multi-pronged advocacy effort to save it.
MLCP-LA is a collaboration between NLSLA, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Mental Health Advocacy Services and the LA County Department of Health Services. A significant number of patients referred to legal services through MLCP-LA had never before accessed legal services. Had they not been connected to legal aid through their medical providers, their legal issues would have remained unresolved, continuing to exacerbate with time and deepening the already shameful disparities that have made poverty the single greatest predictor of negative health outcomes.
To save the critical project, NLSLA and its partners are seeking to establish a new partnership with the LA County Department of Mental Health, to fund MLCP-LA’s current work through its Prevention and Early Intervention program. After final approval is sought later this year, the new partnership would allow services to continue within the LA County Department of Health Services with a renewed focus on MLCP-LA client’s access to mental health treatment, and remove barriers that may further put clients at risk of mental illness.
NLSLA and its partners are also working with the Department of Mental Health to bring legal services to mental health clinics county-wide, starting with the American Indian Counseling Center and Rio Hondo Community Health Centers. If these collaborations are successful, MLCP-LA may grow significantly across the LA County Department of Mental Health Services system.