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.
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.
When: 10:30am-1:00pm, Tuesday, October 9, 2018
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
-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!
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!
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 mhas-la.org/donate.
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.
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.