This unique partnership between Healthy Start and Widener University School of Law was first established in the fall of 2010. The Chester-area Healthy Start program is one of only three Healthy Start programs nationally to receive funding to increase family advocacy through the development of a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP). Civil and consumer lawyers who are embedded in the Healthy Start office provide direct legal representation, systemic advocacy and training to support program participants, staff and the community. The MLP was created in response to a social and legal needs assessment administered in Chester by Widener School of Law. The assessment showed that many families suffered from unmet social and legal needs and did not have access to attorneys and other advocates.

Attorneys experienced and trained in poverty law work as a part of the case management/care coordination team to meet the often-complex needs of program participants. The MLP attorneys provide timely and consistent legal care for participant families confronting problems such as income entitlements, loss of income, inadequate food and nutrition, unsafe or inadequate housing, inadequate or lack of health insurance coverage for parents and children, lack of appropriate educational services, unfair or deceptive practices against consumers, and access to resources for victims of domestic violence.

The attorneys advocate for Healthy Start participants with local agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Youth Services, the Social Security Administration, local school districts, and the Community Action Agency of Delaware County. The MLP attorneys help Healthy Start clients enroll in health coverage, access and maintain eligibility for public benefits and entitlements, improve housing conditions, increase access to childcare and early childhood development services, and preserve custodial rights. Evaluation results show that after receiving services from MLP, participants report significantly decreased levels of stress, increased self-efficacy and high levels of satisfaction.

For more information about MLP, please contact Laura Handel, Esq., Managing Attorney.

Learn more about how Healthy Start and the Nurse-Family Partnership are improving maternal and children’s health care.

See related Delaware County Daily Times article.