Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Launching a Medical-Legal Partnership to Improve Maternal Health

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

June 13, 2023


Finger Lakes

Western NY


In Progress



Social determinants of health such as food, housing, and employment can affect up to 80% of patients’ health outcomes.

For many low-income people, related legal problems affect their physical and mental health. In response, Legal Assistance of Western New York’s (LawNY) medical-legal partnership (MLP) programs provide legal services to patients experiencing poverty who receive care at local hospitals. Through this work, LawNY has identified a growing need among women and families in Monroe County—where women are the largest demographic living in poverty, with the highest rates of poverty among mothers and pregnant women of color and female-led households. Additionally, the maternal and infant mortality rate is three times higher for Black women and babies than for their white counterparts. Through its decade-long partnership with Rochester Regional Health (RRH), LawNY has an opportunity to expand services and better support Monroe County. In 2023, NYHealth awarded LawNY a grant to launch a replicable MLP program to improve maternal health by addressing factors that contribute to disparities in infant and maternal mortality, pre-term births, and maternal mental health.

Under this grant, LawNY will expand its onsite presence at several RRH medical clinics to provide easy access to support for mothers and pregnant patients at varying stages during their care. It will assign patients to legal advocates who can assist with needs like housing, employment and educational programs, paid family leave and short-term disability, space and time for lactation, childcare subsidies, postpartum health insurance and children’s health insurance coverage, spousal responsibility income, and SNAP and WIC benefits. LawNY aims to connect at least 100 women and families with legal services for complex cases. In addition, LawNY will partner with clinicians and social workers to screen for needs related to social determinants of health and make referrals to the MLP team. To promote sustainability and broaden reach, it will hold biannual multidisciplinary RRH staff trainings and engage with other MLP networks to share practical strategies to replicate the model throughout the region and State.