Courtney Mendoza

The Project

Courtney’s maternal medical-legal partnership is empowering low-income pregnant and postpartum women 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 addresses 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 women 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 pairs holistic legal advocacy in conjunction with NFP’s medical care. Her project addresses health-harming legal issues, including food and income insecurity, family violence, access to insured and affordable health care, housing instability and habitability issues, and more – all of which have become 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 to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Courtney has:

  • Launched and expanded referral stream with NFP to provide legal services to mothers across Los Angeles County.
  • Provided holistic direct legal services for more than 40 families experiencing various inequities and resource insecurities ranging from housing, public benefits and income, family safety, and more.
  • Began collecting case outcome data to track the efficacy of the project and to develop a “best practices” guide for other service providers who also advocate for mothers.

Next Steps

In the next year, Courtney plans to:

  • Increase the project’s referral stream to more medical providers within the NFP program to serve more families.
  • Continue collecting client outcomes to establish the project’s reputation as a vital public health legal program for overall family stability, and to create a “best practices” guide for advocates working with similar client populations.
  • Secure funding to sustain the maternal medical-legal partnership beyond the fellowship term.

Media

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