Learn More About Medical Legal Partnership for Children In Hawaii (MLPC)
What We Do:
The Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai‘i (MLPC) follows the national model of engaging in the following three core activities:
Providing direct legal services to low-income clients through Legal Advocacy Clinics on-site at a community health clinic setting;
Transforming legal and health practice through professional education and training; and
Working together as doctors and lawyers to address systemic advocacy issues, including policy change, community empowerment, and professional training.
MLPC Hawai‘i runs twice-weekly, free Legal Advocacy Clinics for low-income families on-site at the Kokua Kalihi Valley health center (KKV). We also run Legal Advocacy Clinics at Kuhio Park Terrace housing (KPT). The Legal Advocacy Clinics coincide with the KKV Pediatrics Clinics every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. This allows for seamless legal services for families, and it also provides practical training for law students alongside pediatric residents. To date we have assisted over 450 families at KKV and KPT, and reached hundreds more through outreach and workshops.
In addition to direct legal services, MLPC Hawai‘i hosts numerous professional trainings and educational workshops each year for health professionals (including doctors, nurses, dentists, behavior health social workers, psychologists, maternal and child health outreach workers, etc.), law students and medical students, and community partners. These educational and outreach efforts are all organized and selected carefully both to train our community partners and to build relationships as key elements of our collaborative, interdisciplinary vision.
Lastly, MLPC Hawai‘i engages in systemic advocacy alongside the communities we serve, focusing on advocacy and policy solutions that emerge from the “ground” up. This means listening to the needs of the families we serve, our community partners, fellow professionals, as well as policymakers themselves. For example, MLPC has worked closely with the Micronesian community in Hawai‘i to advocate for their access to health care and to address discrimination, language access, civil rights, and other new immigrant challenges.
Why It Works
The MLP model is effective because it co-locates legal services with community health centers that serve traditionally underserved populations. Families benefit from accessing immediate help for medical, social, and legal services in a one-stop site. By engaging in “preventive law” alongside “preventive medicine,” MLPC attorneys can engage in simple legal advocacy before an issue becomes a more serious problem. Co-location of services also creates a unique relationship between the doctors and lawyers, which naturally leads to better collaboration and faster interventions.
MLPC Hawai‘i has a strong track record of bringing particular sensitivity and dedication to the needs of the families we serve. The MLPC team of attorneys and law students have demonstrated that we care about staying with and advancing community issues, from researching the politics, history, and population health to working side-by-side for policy, civil rights, and community building. And sometimes we simply help a family to complete a "Head Start" application so their child can attend preschool. Where is the “law” in all this? By working directly with the communities we serve, we have come to be embraced by low-income families in Kalihi Valley as “their lawyer.” This is something that not many low-income people in Hawai‘i (or America) can claim.
Clinical Programs at the University of Hawai'i
One of the most important aspects of MLPC is that we provide year-round clinical opportunities for law students and other graduate students in public health, nursing, social work, education, and other disciplines. We know that students who train together across disciplines become professionals who work collaboratively and without silos.