ABOUT

OUR MISSION

The mission of Mental Health Advocacy Services is to protect and advance the legal rights of children and adults with mental disabilities, in order to maximize autonomy, promote equality, and secure the resources needed to thrive in the community.

HISTORY

Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. (MHAS) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1977 to provide free legal services to people with mental disabilities. MHAS assists both children and adults, with an emphasis on obtaining government benefits and services, protecting rights, and fighting discrimination. MHAS also serves as a resource to the community by providing training and technical assistance to attorneys, mental health professionals, consumer and family member groups, and other advocates. In addition, MHAS participates in impact litigation in an effort to improve the lives of people with mental disabilities.

Learn more about MHAS’ history below or click here for a PDF.

MHAS HISTORY

1977

MHAS OPENS ITS DOORS

With seed funding from the American Bar Association, the Mental Health Advocacy Project of the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations began providing patients’ rights protection to people with mental and developmental disabilities at state hospitals.
1979

MHAS BECOMES A NONPROFIT

Mental Health Advocacy Services was incorporated as an independent, nonprofit organization and added the Mental Health Association in California as a sponsor. The focus of MHAS’ advocacy shifted from patients in state hospitals to individuals living in the community.
1983

LOPEZ V. HECKLER

As a result of Lopez v. Heckler, a federal class action in which MHAS acted as co-counsel, the Social Security Administration ceased arbitrary terminations of disability benefits for people with mental disabilities. This litigation restored benefits to thousands of people who had been wrongly disenrolled.
1986

RENSCH V. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

MHAS and co-counsel filed Rensch v. Board of Supervisors, a class action lawsuit that forced Los Angeles County to create a special assistance program that helped thousands of people with mental disabilities experiencing homelessness obtain the General Relief benefits they needed to survive.
1988

BUTTERFIELD V. HONIG: SUCCESS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS

MHAS and co-counsel negotiated a consent decree in Butterfield v. Honig that resulted in timely provision of assessment and mental health services to thousands of special education students in Los Angeles County whose needs were previously not met.
1993

MHAS LAUNCHES THE FOSTER CARE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROJECT

MHAS launches the Foster Care Special Education Project which trained hundreds of foster parents about special education laws and effective strategies to obtain services for their children with disabilities.
1997

FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING DEVELOPMENT

In Family Alliance for the Mentally Ill v. City of Fresno, MHAS and co-counsel successfully challenged attempts to block development of housing for people with mental disabilities. MHAS also worked to identify cities and counties whose land use and zoning practices discriminated against people with disabilities.
1999

EDUCATION INITIATIVE TRAINING PROJECT

In the Education Initiative Training Project, a joint project of MHAS and the L.A. County Department of Children & Family Services, MHAS trained social workers in how to obtain appropriate educational services for the County’s 70,000 foster children.
2000

SECURING INDIVIDUALIZED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR CHILDREN

As a result of Emily Q. v. Belshe, a class action lawsuit in which MHAS acted as co-counsel, thousands of children were entitled to additional individualized mental health services designed to prevent placement in highly restrictive group homes or mental health facilities.
2004

MHAS PROVIDES FAIR HOUSING TRAININGS AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

MHAS’ “Getting It Built” project expanded to provide fair housing training and technical assistance to non-profit housing developers, local governments and advocates in seven California counties.
2006

10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HOMELESS SSI OUTREACH PROJECT

MHAS’ Homeless SSI Outreach Project completed its first 10 years, having helped more than 3,000 homeless and at-risk individuals throughout L.A. County obtain SSI and Medi-Cal benefits needed to pay for housing, food, clothing and mental health treatment.
2015

SECURING LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR IMMIGRATION DETAINEES WITH MENTAL HEALTH DISABILITIES

Co-counseling with the ACLU in Franco v. Holder, MHAS won the right to legal representation for all immigration detainees with a serious mental disorder that renders them unable to represent themselves. The victory represented the first time any court has ruled that non-citizens are entitled to legal representation.
2018

MHAS JOINS MEDICAL LEGAL COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

MHAS joins as a partner in LA County’s Medical-Legal Community Partnership (MLCP), a project administered by the Department of Health Services. Through the MLCP, MHAS assists participants with legal issues to ensure that they have the resources and support needed to achieve better health outcomes and overall well-being.
2019

MHAS ANNOUNCES NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH PAINTED BRAIN

In partnership with Painted Brain and with funding from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, MHAS launched Project New Start, a comprehensive job placement, mental health, and legal services program for formerly incarcerated individuals with mental health issues in Los Angeles.