MHAS conducts community training sessions to teach parents and caregivers how to obtain special education services for their children. For families needing additional assistance, MHAS provides individual advocacy including negotiation with school districts and other agencies and representation in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, mediations and administrative hearings.
MHAS and Learning Works Charter School in Pasadena are piloting a school-legal partnership to support positive education outcomes for Learning Works students and their families who face legal challenges that often interfere with educational success. These legal challenges can include problems with government benefits such as Medi-Cal and SSI, eviction and homelessness, and unresolved tickets. By integrating legal support into the educational setting, this partnership will connect vulnerable students to legal support, thereby enabling them to focus on their continued education.
FAIR HOUSING ADVOCACY
MHAS fights housing discrimination against individuals with disabilities through legal representation, fair housing training and community education. In 2017, MHAS conducted a fair housing education and outreach project, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Fair Housing Initiatives Program, to educate mental health consumers and service providers about fair housing rights and responsibilities. In addition to conducting fair housing workshops, the project distributed “Fair Housing Tip of the Month” e-mail messages in three languages. This project has been renewed in 2018.
Community Redevelopment Legal Services Project
In 2018, MHAS has commenced a project, funded by the Bank of America California State Bar Grant, that focuses on improving housing stability and housing opportunities for low-income individuals with mental health disabilities in the San Gabriel Valley.
GOVERNMENT BENEFITS ADVOCACY/ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Each year MHAS assists hundreds of people with issues related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other Social Security benefits. This assistance includes providing advice about the SSI application process, as well as preventing clients from losing their SSI benefits by assisting them with post-eligibility issues such as benefit terminations, overpayments and disability reviews. MHAS also helps individuals apply for and maintain Medi-Cal insurance coverage and obtain appropriate mental health services. In addition to representing individual clients, MHAS is collaborating with Inner City Law Center as part of the Countywide Benefits Entitlement Services Team (CBEST) program to provide technical assistance to multiple social service providers throughout Los Angeles County to help homeless individuals obtain SSI benefits.
WHOLE PERSON CARE – LOS ANGELES (WPC-LA) MEDICAL LEGAL PARTNERSHIP (MLP)
In 2018, MHAS joined Neighborhood Legal Services of L.A. County and three other legal services agencies to form a Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services – Whole Person Care (WPC-LA) program. This MLP will provide legal services in areas such as housing, public benefits, and special education to the County’s most vulnerable Medi-Cal recipients.
MHAS provides legal assistance to at-risk and homeless veterans with mental health disabilities to remove barriers to housing stability, employment, and self-sufficiency. Legal issues include landlord tenant matters, fair housing advocacy, problems with disability and other income maintenance benefits, consumer and medical debt, and warrant issues. MHAS has established two behavioral health legal partnerships in this area to resolve clients’ legal issues in an effort to improve mental health outcomes.
Initially supported through a Skadden Fellowship, this collaborative project with Operation Healthy Homecoming, a program of Mental Health America of Los Angeles, provides legal assistance to veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in a rapid rehousing program.
View our video about BeHeLP-Vets.
This project supported by Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps Fellowship provides direct representation to veterans who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless. MHAS is working with U.S. Vets and other agencies serving veterans to provide legal advocacy as a component of holistic care.
MHAS participates in impact litigation aimed at improving the lives of low-income people with mental disabilities. For example, as co-counsel in the class action Emily Q. v. Bontá, MHAS played a key role in bringing federally mandated Therapeutic Behavior Services to children in California. MHAS currently serves as co-counsel in Franco-Gonzalez v. Sessions, which is in the monitoring stage of a permanent injunction. In this case the court ordered the United States government to provide counsel to immigration detainees who as a result of a mental disability are unable to provide competent self-representation in their immigration proceedings.