Mental Health Law Project

MFY’s Mental Health Law Project serves over 1,600 people each year, enabling people with mental illness to remain in the community.

Mental health consumers, no less than other populations, regularly face legal battles to maintain housing, secure an adequate income, and live with the full dignity and civil rights to which they are entitled. For persons struggling with severe mental illnesses, these legal battles are another stressor that can ultimately lead to deterioration of mental health status, hospitalization, and homelessness. By providing civil legal assistance to mental health consumers, MFY stands as a bulwark against crisis – preventing homelessness, loss of income and loss of civil rights so that mental health consumers can maintain stability within their chosen community.

MFY was in the vanguard when it first established its Mental Health Law Project in 1983, partnering with outpatient mental health providers throughout New York City and with 11 New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation psychiatric units to provide legal services in conjunction with mental health treatment. By working as a team with mental health treatment providers, MFY and its partners are able to avoid a client’s loss of income or housing that so often accompanies deterioration in mental health or hospitalization. Additionally, to further expand our impact, MFY provides expert training to social service workers on housing, government benefits, and other issues relevant to the mental health consumer community.

MFY’s experienced attorneys and paralegal assist mental health consumers on housing issues, consumer debt matters, SSI/SSD questions, Medicaid problems, and other legal matters through training, advocacy and litigation. We regularly work with pro bono attorneys who serve as guardians ad litem for our clients or assist our clients in administrative proceedings. Through our work, thousands of mental health consumers have avoided homelessness and we have obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability benefits for our clients. MFY has additionally worked to address systemic issues that effect mental health consumers through expert testimony, policy advocacy, comments on regulations, educational outreach, and impact litigation.

MFY writes the Ask The Attorney section in Voices magazine, responding to legal questions from the mental health community.

The project receives support from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and the New York State Health Foundation.

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