by Eliza Schafler
Eliza Schafler is an MHAS Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.


Last week, I spoke about our panel discussion at the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership Annual Summit, “A Natural Fit and a Sound Investment: Behavioral Health and MLP.”

This week, I want to reflect more generally on the themes of the Summit and the lessons we can bring back to our own Behavioral Health-Legal Partnership (BeHeLP), which serves Los Angeles children and families.

The Annual Summit is a way to take the pulse of the national MLP community – to see the broad trends in partnerships across the country that integrate health and legal care. This year, behavioral health was not a sideshow in the MLP conversation; it was very much the main event. The conversations about behavioral health took place not just at our panel discussion, but among advocates for veterans; between physicians focused on “high health utilizers” who return to the ER repeatedly; among maternal health providers concerned with postpartum depression; and of course, in the discussion of the Affordable Care Act, which promotes “medical-homes” that address physical and mental health. This year, there was a recognition that social and legal problems deeply affect behavioral health, which in turn greatly influences individual and community well-being.

It was gratifying to see that we are doing something important by focusing on mental health. Yet there are many things that BeHeLP can learn from physical health-focused MLPs. At the Summit, we saw new possible methods to better train clinical staff to screen for legal needs using technology. We were also pushed to consider new ways of reaching out to the communities we touch, through Spanish-language presentations directly to community members. Finally, we learned of ways to use the MLP model to create policy change – a tool we will keep in mind as BeHeLP continues to grow.