By Johanna Bloomfield, Senior Attorney
I rejoined Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS) last spring as it began a new partnership led by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLS) designed to serve some of our County’s most vulnerable, often homeless, residents by integrating legal services into the provision of health care. It is an innovative partnership between legal services providers and LA County’s Department of Health Services (DHS) that takes the concept of a medical/legal partnership and expands it to serve populations of Medi-Cal clients around the county who face the most serious needs of income and housing instability, mental health challenges and reentry into the community.
Pioneered over 20 years ago, medical/legal partnerships integrate legal services into health care settings to ameliorate the social determinants of health caused by poverty, trauma and instability to foster better health outcomes. The concept expanded over the years to behavioral health partnerships; MHAS has had several behavioral health/legal partnerships working with families and veterans.
The partnership that I came on board to serve is called the “Medical Legal Community Partnership” (MLCP) and involves Medi-Cal programs of DHS and its legal partners, now MHAS, NLS and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA).
MHAS’s role is to provide legal assistance—both direct legal representation and technical assistance and training to health workers—through referrals that come in from health workers around the county to a virtual portal. I am honored to play a role in this historic collaboration. I feel that my work directly affects the problem of homelessness that we see on the streets of LA every day and that MHAS and our partners are part of the solution.
Our MLCP has changed lives. For example, we have advocated
To have a new mother with two other young children receive an extension of her shelter program so that she could find stable, long-term housing;
To reinstate a housing voucher for a veteran with mental health disabilities so that he could obtain stable housing; and
To dismiss an unlawful detainer action against a client with physical disabilities who was being forced onto the street in violation of fair housing laws.
These successes came through the hard work of our staff and a dedicated cadre of pro bono attorneys who have been eager to be part of the solution to the homeless epidemic facing LA. In addition to this support from the community, our legal partners, NLS and LAFLA, work tirelessly moving this collaboration forward.
Johanna Bloomfield, Senior Attorney