Courtney Mendoza

  • Hosted by Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc
  • Sponsored by Anonymous, Katherine Borsecnik & Gene Weil
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  • Issue area Health Care, Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Courtney’s maternal medical-legal partnership at Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS) empowered low-income pregnant and postpartum mothers with mental health disabilities through direct legal services, know-your-rights trainings, and policy advocacy to foster health, housing, and family stability.

Courtney’s project addressed the social determinants of health behind the disparate rates of infant and maternal mortality, pre-term births, and mental health disabilities experienced by low-income mothers of color in Los Angeles County. When health issues are legally and socioeconomically rooted, it is difficult to sustainably improve health outcomes with medicine alone. By partnering with the county’s Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, which provides physical and mental health care to low-income mothers through a home visitation model, Courtney’s innovative maternal medical-legal partnership paired holistic legal advocacy with NFP’s medical care. Her project addressed health-harming legal issues, including: food and income insecurity, family violence, access to insured and affordable health care, housing instability, habitability issues, and more—all of which became increasingly consequential for family stability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtney’s passion to advocate for families stems from her upbringing and her exposure to the prevalent cycle of homelessness, hospitalization, and incarceration for people with mental health disabilities in Los Angeles. She has extensive experience working with clients with mental health disabilities in clinics and medical-legal partnership settings, creating legal resource materials on a variety of health law topics, and engaging with community stakeholders to influence public health policies.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Courtney:
  • Launched and expanded her referral stream with NFP, providing free legal services to more than 100 mothers and families across Los Angeles County
  • Achieved $34,000 and counting in economic benefits for clients over the course of the project
  • Collaborated with the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ) to provide new restraining order services at her host organization
  • Collected pre- and post-intervention data from clients showing improved mental health outcomes, socioeconomic stability, and family stability

Next Steps

Courtney continued to serve on her maternal medical-legal partnership project through October 2022. She and her host organization are actively working to obtain funding to maintain the project beyond the Fellowship term, and they hope to incorporate it into MHAS’ core legal services programs moving forward.


Developing a Maternal Medical-Legal Partnership to Improve Health Outcomes

Helping Clara on Her Path to Stability

Meet the Team: Courtney Mendoza

USC Gould School of Law: Invested in Public Interest

When health issues are socioeconomically rooted and unaddressed, it is difficult to sustainably improve health outcomes.

Courtney Mendoza /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Kassandra Gonzalez

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Ashley Maddison

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Sponsor: Covington & Burling LLP, Merck & Co., Inc.