What We Do
The Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee’s attorneys and staff work in a multitude of areas to enhance and protect the rights of persons with mental illness in Massachusetts.
Our Intake Department handles callers with questions that span the spectrum of legal issues from inpatient psychiatric hospitalization rights and health insurance denials to visitation rights and DYS cases. Our intake unit is highly trained and staffed by attorneys and advocates. We provide basic advice and referral information to all callers with issues regarding mental illness. Some cases, pursuant to MHLAC priorities, are sent internally for further review by other attorneys and for consideration for brief service or individual representation. If direct representation cannot be offered, the caller will always receive advice by an attorney. See About MHLAC Intake for more information.
Our Training Department provides comprehensive, all-day trainings for CPCS attorneys seeking continuing legal education credits from the Mental Health Litigation and the Children and Family Law Units of CPCS. Topics include cutting edge clinical information regarding mental illness and its treatment as well as legal skills sessions to ensure zealous representation of clients. The faculty of all MHLAC conferences consists of renowned psychiatrists and other physicians, lawyers, and judges from Massachusetts. See About MHLAC Training for more information.
As part of our direct service work, the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee houses two special projects, the Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project (CFLSP) and the DYS Project, which focus their legal work on a specific population in order to maximize assistance to that group.
The CLFSP was established in 1999 to provide legal representation and assistance to low-income parents diagnosed with a mental illness who are seeking to access or regain custody of their children. See About Clubhouse Project for more information.
The DYS Project was created in 2005 to provide legal information, advice, and representation to youth involved with the Department of Youth Services, as well as to their families, and advocates. See DYS Resources for more information.
MHLAC’s current priorities include a focus on fighting discrimination against persons with mental illness in private, short and long-term disability insurance policies. We are actively involved in protecting the rights of persons with mental illness in the face of health care reform and work with provider and consumer organizations to ensure the rights of consumers, vis-à-vis insurers. MHLAC also seeks to expand and enforce civil rights of persons with mental illness who are hospitalized on inpatient wards. We offer expertise and assistance in filing administrative complaints against facilities for inpatients.
Finally, MHLAC is involved in a number of collaborations with outside agencies. In 2011, MHLAC was Regional Coordinator for the CPCS mental health attorneys in Suffolk and Norfolk Counties. As Regional Coordinator, we provided legal support and training to the attorneys in these counties and back up to CPCS. In addition, MHLAC collaborated with Children’s Hospital Boston and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to plan and convene a working summit on children’s mental health, sponsored by the Children’s Mental Health Campaign and the Boston Bar Association. MHLAC continues to work on follow-up to the Summit.