An Evaluation of the Medical Legal Partnership

Posted in: News

Posted on January 19, 2023

The Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) is a partnership between the Legal Aid Society (LAS) and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Child and Family Institute (CFI), which serves children with psychiatric conditions and developmental or learning disabilities. Through the MLP, LAS provides training to CFI clinicians about how to identify youth in need of education advocacy (e.g., youth facing superintendent suspension hearings, in restrictive settings, and/or with frequent classroom removals). CFI clinicians use this knowledge to identify and refer patients to LAS for civil and educational legal advocacy and services. LAS then matches each family with an attorney who advocates for them to pursue special education and other supportive educational services.

The MLP aims to positively affect the community by (a) improving functioning among families of youth at high risk for criminal legal involvement and (b) improving coordination between mental health services and legal services for youth at high risk for criminal justice involvement. This program was implemented through funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, with guidance from the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance.

Beginning in 2019, AIR was contracted to conduct a process evaluation and return-on-investment study of the MLP between the LAS and CFI. At the end of the 4-year evaluation, the findings from the process evaluation indicate the following:

  • Youth with special needs, specifically those with disabilities, often required legal advocacy to pursue educational services that they would not otherwise receive.
  • The MLP serves youth who are predominantly Black and Hispanic.
  • Collaboration between staff and data sharing were integral to the success of the MLP.
  • Training that LAS provided to CFI staff was essential, as it helped clinicians understand how the partnership worked and provided a better sense of when, how, and why to refer clients to the MLP.
  • The colocation of legal services within the clinic was essential.

The overall return on investment (ROI) was greater than zero, indicating that the benefits outweighed the costs. For some of the educational milestones, the benefits were nearly 40 times the costs. The findings also show that even for youth who never achieve their intended milestone, the pursuit benefits exceed the cost of providing them in most cases.

Download the full Evaluation of the Medical Legal Partnership Program here.

Download the executive summary here.

Download the Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students With Disabilities policy brief here, which discusses the MLP’s role in CJII’s goal to expand service providers’ capacities to implement programs for populations at elevated risk of poor life outcomes, including criminal legal system involvement.

For a high-level overview of the findings, see our blog. There, you can also find a discussion of the social benefits of the program.

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