The Medical-Legal Partnership Project (MLP) is a partnership between Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH). The MLP provides free legal services to pregnant patients of participating Healthy Women Healthy Babies providers (HWHB) statewide and Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) providers in New Castle County.

What is a Medical Legal Partnership?

The Medical-Legal Partnership model is a program to help legal and health care professionals to work together to improve the health and wellbeing of the patients served. MLPs offer an intervention that brings together diverse disciplines – medicine, nursing, social work, public health, and the law – to benefit low income, vulnerable women, young children and their families. A high proportion of low- income individuals face serious legal challenges that adversely affect their social, emotional, and financial wellbeing.

Tell me more about CLASI and DPH’s current Medical Legal Partnership Project.

The current project is an expansion of a 2013 pilot collaboration between CLASI and DPH’s HWHB Program, creating an MLP for high risk pregnant women at certain HWHB sites in New Castle County. This is a crucial population to study because of the significant public health and financial ramifications of maternal stress. Low birth weight and preterm birth are risk factors for poor outcomes in infancy and childhood – infant mortality, delayed cognitive development, incidence of disease, disability – and even in adulthood – lower levels of educational attainment, earnings, and employment.   The pilot MLP provided training to health care providers, screening tools to identify unmet legal needs, and free legal assistance to high risk pregnant women.The results were promising in terms of the intervention’s impact on reducing client stress and improving health.

The MLP is now being expanded to include all HWHB providers throughout the state, as well as the Nurse Family Partnership/Home Visiting Program in New Castle County. CLASI will be providing training to health care provider staff and free legal assistance to pregnant women participating in the HWHB/NFP programs.

Who Is eligible?

Anyone who is pregnant and receiving prenatal services from a Healthy Women Healthy Babies (HWHB) Provider in Delaware, or who is receiving prenatal Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) services in New Castle County. Eligibility continues after the baby is born if we have not yet completed the legal work we have agreed to help with.

What problems are handled by the Medical Legal Partnership Project?

  • Income issues such as Medicaid, Food benefits, Social Security.
  • Housing problems such as evictions, voucher terminations, poor living conditions;
  • Employment and education issues such as pregnancy discrimination, or accommodations in school/higher education
  • Legal Immigration Status issues for victims of domestic violence, trafficking, crimes, and juveniles who are abused/dependent/neglected.
  • Personal and Family Stability issues such problems with Division of Family Services, need for a Protection from Abuse order, disability related problems.
  • And more!

Note: The Medical Legal Partnership does not handle criminal matters, malpractice cases, traffic offenses, wills, or matters adverse to MLP partners or providers.

I am a prenatal patient – how do I apply for MLP services?

Talk to your healthcare provider about completing a referral to CLASI. If your legal problem cannot wait until you speak with your healthcare provider about a referral, visit the CLASI office nearest you or call the office in your county and tell them that you are applying for Medical Legal Partnership Project services. Once you are referred to us a staff member will ask you for intake information. This is required by our funding sources before we can serve you. If you are eligible for services, and you have a legal problem that we handle, your information will be given to a member of our legal staff who will review it and contact you.

I am a participating HWHB or NFP provider; how do I refer patients?

Download and complete the referral form, then follow the directions at the bottom of the form to submit to CLASI by email or fax.  The screening and referral form may be available in your facility’s electronic medical records program.  You can also download a PDF or type-able PDF version of the form by clicking on the following links:

I am a participating healthcare provider. Why refer through the MLP instead of just telling patients to contact CLASI directly?

There are two main reasons why you should refer through the MLP. First, the demand for legal services far exceeds the funding available for CLASI to represent the low-income community. As a result, CLASI has very specific priorities in its Poverty Program and must turn away cases outside of those priorities. The MLP is dedicated funding to serve the patients of the participating providers and provides us more flexibility and resources to assist your patients. Second, the MLP is a collaboration between healthcare providers and legal staff, which will have some back and forth between the legal and healthcare teams, in terms of advocacy strategies and training. This collaboration will help healthcare providers to identify potential legal problems and learn advocacy skills to help patients prevent the problem from rising to the level that it needs an attorney to resolve it.

I am a healthcare provider and would like to find out about establishing a Medical Legal Partnership for my patients. Whom do I contact?

Call us at (302) 575-0660 or email clasimlp@declasi.org.