USC Gould News Feature on Mental Health Advocacy Services 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

USC Gould alumni have played a key role at Mental Health Advocacy Services for the past 40 years and will continue to lead it into the future.


August 13, 2019: FREE LEGAL CLINIC

When: 10:30am-1:00pm, Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Where: First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, Great Hall, 500 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101

Do you have questions about:
-A child’s problems in school
-Special education
-Landlord/tenant or other housing problems
-Medi-Cal, SSI or SSDI benefits
-Conservatorship, mental health law or family member with mental health disabilities
-or another legal problem?

At this clinic, volunteers and attorneys at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. will provide consultation and information. Bring any documents relating to your questions.

To make an appointment, call 213-389-2077 ext. 12 – ask for Pam

Priority will be given to people with appointments, but drop-ins are welcome. Individuals, families, and local case managers or clinicians are welcome!

View/Download flyer



Stigma, sky-high rent and navigating bureaucracies are among the barriers Pasadena faces in getting homeless people with mental illnesses into housing, according to a new report.

The study was conducted by Mental Health Advocacy Services Inc., a Los Angeles-based legal aid organization, which examined the Crown City’s roadblocks.

Story by Chris Lindahl

Read MHAS’ Full Report, Identifying Systemic Barriers to Housing Homeless Individuals With Mental Health Disabilities in Pasadena, Feb. 2019


MHAS is pleased to announce that it has again been awarded a one-year grant of $125,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) for an education and outreach project to raise awareness of fair housing rights in Los Angeles County. Our activities will include community fair housing workshops for housing providers, mental health providers and mental health consumers. We will also continue our “Fair Housing Tip of the Month” e-mail campaign and continue to provide technical assistance to individuals and organizations on issues around fair housing and reasonable accommodations for people with mental disabilities.

For more information about the program and to see the complete list of award recipients, see the HUD Press Release.


Congratulations to MHAS Board Member Meiram Bendat and his colleagues at Psych-Appeal, Inc. and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP for their recent landmark mental health ruling!  In a nationwide class action suit, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that United Behavioral Health (“UBH/Optum”), the country’s largest managed behavioral healthcare organization, illegally denied mental health and substance use coverage based on flawed medical necessity criteria. Check out the article below for further details.


October 15, 2018: In Memory of Jim Preis

We are deeply saddened and grieved by the loss of our Executive Director Jim Preis. After several months of treatment for cancer, Jim passed away on October 12 with his family by his side.

The tremendous outpouring of community support over the last few weeks has been comforting during this difficult time. Jim’s family told us he was delighted by all of the messages we were forwarding to him.

We are committed to carrying on the mission of MHAS to protect and advance the legal rights of people with mental disabilities. The Board of Directors and Staff are focused on continuing the work to which Jim dedicated his life and ensuring that his vision will live on.

Throughout these last weeks, Jim remained committed to MHAS and the clients he had always served. He was looking to the future of MHAS and working with the Board to plan the leadership transition and the October 28 MHAS Annual Celebration event. The event, which will honor Jim’s distinguished advocacy career, will go an as scheduled with the family’s blessing. Donations in Jim’s honor will help us continue his legacy.

Event Information

L.A. Times Obituary:
Jim Preis, L.A. activist who fought for the rights of the mentally ill and disabled, dies at 66

October 6, 2018: Jim Preis and Vijay Gupta featured in a Los Angeles Times column by Steve Lopez

One mental health advocate thrives, another fights for his life

Thank you, Steve Lopez, for this touching tribute to Jim who is retiring after 39 years as Executive Director. Steve writes:

He is retiring after four decades of defending the rights of those with disabilities and mental illness. But several days ago, I learned from Bob Sipchen — my former editor and a close friend of Preis’ — that Jim is fighting the spread of cancer and is worried he might not be able to attend the event.

Read more

More info on MHAS’ Annual Celebration honoring Jim


MHAS held a popcorn and wine pairing event graciously hosted by Nixon Peabody LLP to celebrate our volunteers and community partners. Thank you for making the work of MHAS possible!

View more photos


Mental Health Advocacy Services is launching a search for a new Executive Director and will honor Jim Preis at its October annual celebration

Jim Preis, Executive Director of Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS), a legal services program in Los Angeles, has decided to retire after 39 years in that position. Preis has agreed to stay in the role until his replacement is hired, and to continue serving at MHAS in some other capacity after that. MHAS will be launching a search for a new Executive Director starting immediately.

“Jim has built MHAS into the jewel of an organization that it is today. Under Jim’s leadership, MHAS has become a model for providing legal services to low-income individuals living with mental health disabilities,” said Board President David Bower. “We owe Jim an enormous debt of gratitude and we are lucky that he will be able to continue to serve until we find his replacement, and then to stay with us in a reduced but still important role.”

MHAS is the only legal services non-profit organization in Los Angeles County exclusively focused on low-income individuals with mental health disabilities.

“MHAS’s success can be traced to Jim’s vision, leadership, and policy expertise,” said MHAS Board Member and USC Gould School of Law Professor Elyn Saks, a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and author of the best-selling memoir The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. “I am pleased to call him a colleague and a friend.”

Preis became Executive Director in 1979, not long after graduating from the USC Gould School of Law, and has spent his entire career at MHAS. He has seen many changes over that time, including a shift in MHAS’s focus from protecting the rights of patients in the dehumanizing psychiatric institutions of the 1970s, to helping clients live independent lives, with full access to necessary services and free from stigma and discrimination.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” Preis said. “But it’s time for me to step back and assist the Board in finding MHAS’s leadership for the future. I’m grateful to all the current and past board members, donors, staff, and volunteers of MHAS for their support. And I will continue to champion the rights of people with mental health disabilities.”

MHAS will be honoring Preis at its annual fundraiser on Sunday, October 28, 2018, in a community celebration of his long and effective career. A Jim Preis Fund has been established to honor Preis’s legacy and to support the MHAS mission into the future. Donations to the Fund can be made at

View/Download the Press Release


Pro Bono Success, Veterans Project, Law Rocks and More


Law Rocks Los Angeles 2018 was a smashing success! The MSKeatles of law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp (MSK) rocked the Whisky a Go Go with their covers of The Beatles to raise money for MHAS.

Photo gallery 


Sherrill Martin (1936-2017)
It is with great sorrow that we tell you longtime MHAS staff member Sherrill Martin passed away on November 1st.

Sherrill was a tireless and tenacious advocate who helped thousands of individuals obtain and maintain Social Security Disability and SSI benefits. In 30 years as a Government Benefits Specialist at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Sherrill was a key player in benefits advocacy in Los Angeles County. She led important policy initiatives, shared her expertise by training other advocates, and managed MHAS’ Homeless SSI Outreach Project. Remarkably, before coming to MHAS Sherrill completed an impressive 30-year career at the Social Security Administration, where she was a District Office Manager.

Most recently, Sherill was excited to lead MHAS’ participation in the launch of the Countywide Benefits Entitlements Services Team (CBEST), a program of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative.

Sherrill devoted her life’s work to improving the lives of people with disabilities. She will be greatly missed.

Our thoughts are with Sherrill‘s family at this difficult time.