This unique partnership between TFDC Healthy Start and Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) and Widener University Delaware Law School was established in the fall of 2010. The Chester-area Healthy Start program is one of only three Healthy Start programs nationally to ever receive funding to increase family advocacy through the development of a Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP). TFDC’s (NFP) program is only one of two NFP programs in the country to integrate MLP lawyers into its services. Civil lawyers who are embedded in the programs’ offices 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 Delaware Law School. 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/nurse-home visiting teams to meet the often complex needs of program participants. The MLP attorneys provide timely and consistent legal care for participant families confronting issues such as income insecurity, food insecurity, 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 MLP attorneys advocate for Healthy Start and Nurse-Family Partnership participants with local agencies and other third-party entities, such as the Department of Human Services, the Social Security Administration, local anti-poverty programs, regional utility companies, local housing authorities, private landlords and property management companies, and more. They help clients enroll in health coverage, access and maintain public benefits and entitlements, improve housing conditions, address housing insecurity, increase access to childcare and early childhood development services, and preserve utility services. 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.