Medical-Legal Bay Area Regional Coalition

Such is the enthusiasm for the medical-legal partnership model in the ‘Bay Area’ of California (think San Francisco), it has spawned a regional coalition to support the array of providers.

Known as M-BARC  (the Medical-Legal Bay Area Regional Coalition), it draws together more than 10 partnerships (three of which I was fortunate to visit) including:

  • Peninsula Family Advocacy Program (East Palo Alto / San Mateo)
  • East Bay Medical-Legal Partnership (Berkeley)
  • Marin Medical-Legal Partnership (San Rafael)
  • San Francisco Medical-Legal Partnership (San Francisco)
  • Silicon Valley Medical-Legal Partnership (San Jose)
  • Mental Health Legal Services Project (Richmond)
  • VLSP Community Lawyering Project: Bayview-Hunters Point Medical-Legal Pilot at Southeast Health Clinic (San Francisco).

With so many MLP providers at over 18 medical sites, M-BARC grew from the obvious need for collaboration and support. Spearheaded by the Peninsula Family Advocacy Program, a grant was secured from the National Center to form the coalition and establish a Memorandum of Understanding to:

  1. Promote sustainability and expansion of medical-legal partnerships;
  2. Improve and expand legal service delivery to patient families;
  3. Improve and expand education to health care providers and create a cultural shift in the medical and legal professions towards a collaborative model of service delivery; and
  4. Advocate for structural or policy changes that will improve health at a systemic level.1

Following its establishment M-BARC has received one-off grants to undertake policy work of common interest (analysing housing code enforcement practices in four Bay Area counties to better understand the use of code enforcement as a tool to reduce asthma disparities in low-income and minority communities) and to host the inaugural West Coast MLP Summit in September 2011.

Like many coordinating institutions (including the National Centre), the coalition faces its own resourcing challenges, relying on the good-will and commitment of members to contribute time and energy, and one-off grants to enable important policy work that is of local relevance.

L to R Dr Dana Weintraub, Cheryl Goldfarb-Greenwood RNC, Dr Lynne Huffman, Brooke Heymach Attorney.

While each of the MLP sites I visited in the Bay were unique and impressive, it wasn’t difficult to see why the Peninsula Family Advocacy Program (FAP) played a critical role in establishing M-BARC. FAP is a collaboration between:

It also partners with the San Mateo Medical Center

FAP provides free legal assistance to pregnant women and low-income families and from San Mateo County and Santa Clara County whose children are receiving medical care at these sites.2

FAP is seriously impressive. numerous things jumped out at me, but some really memorable aspects were:

1. The JOINT legal/medical elective taught to law, medicine and other disciplines at Stanford University (which is fortunate to have both medical, law and a range of other health/social service faculties.

2. The drive of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in establishing the clinic – key health staff reeled off the legal confidentiality requirements better than most lawyers!

3. The interest in evaluation – as referred to in the blog post MLP Metrics.

It was really inspiring to see the great things that are in train in the Bay Area. The coalition is a great model for clusters of MLPs elsewhere and is deserving of long-term support and investment.

Peter Noble

1. West Coast Medical-Legal Partnership Agenda: Transforming Medicine and Law to Improve Community Health (September 2011), UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy and the UC Hastings Women’s Law Journal.

2. The Peninsula FAmily Advocacy Program,, accessed 23 April 2012.



  1. Mary Anne Noone says:

    Dear Peter,

    The posts have been great and enabled us to share in your experience of MLPs.

    Safe travelling home,

    Mary Anne

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