ADDRESSING BARRIERS TO REENTRY
In partnership with the organization Painted Brain, MHAS recently launched “Project New Start”, a comprehensive job placement, mental health, and legal services program for formerly incarcerated individuals that reside in South Los Angeles. Project New Start was established to combat employment barriers for individuals who are or who have been in the criminal justice system and are experiencing mental health challenges. Painted Brain and MHAS staff collaborate to provide individualized employment service plans for formerly incarcerated program participants to successfully obtain employment. Additionally, MHAS helps clients overcome barriers to reentry by providing legal services and advocacy in the areas of expungement, employment, housing, and criminal justice debt.
MHAS fights housing discrimination against individuals with mental health disabilities through legal representation, fair housing training, and community education. MHAS currently has an ongoing 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 distributes “Fair Housing Tip of the Month” e-mail messages in in English, Korean, and Spanish to over 3,000 people.
Each year MHAS assists hundreds of people with issues related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other Social Security benefits. This assistance includes providing critical advice and guidance about the SSI application process to individuals with mental health disabilities, 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.
In 2020, MHAS launched a new behavioral health legal partnership in which legal services intervention specifically targeting low-income tenants with mental health disabilities at risk of homelessness is holistically integrated in partnership with three of the largest mental health services providers in Los Angeles. Clients are provided with eviction defense and other tenant defense assistance in landlord-tenant rental disputes, including pre-eviction and eviction legal services, counseling, advice and consultation, mediation, training, renter education and representation, and legal services to improve habitability and to ensure receipt of eligible income or benefits to improve housing stability.
MATERNAL MEDICAL-LEGAL PARTNERSHIP
MHAS currently hosts an Equal Justice Works Fellowship project which operates a medical-legal partnership with Los Angeles County’s Nurse-Family Partnership (“NFP”). NFP provides physical and mental health care to low-income mothers with mental health disabilities during and after their pregnancy. Through this medical-legal partnership, MHAS empowers women through direct legal services, know-your-rights trainings, and policy advocacy to foster health, housing, income, and family stability.
MHAS conducts community training sessions to teach parents and caregivers how to obtain special education services for their children with mental health needs. 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.
WHOLE PERSON CARE MEDICAL LEGAL PARTNERSHIP (MLP)
MHAS is a key partner in LA County’s Medical-Legal Community Partnership (“MLCP”), a project administered by the Department of Health Services, and part of the county’s Whole Person Care (“WPC”) initiative. 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. Since the project began in early 2018, MHAS has helped hundreds of participants on legal matters in the areas of housing, public benefits, and discrimination; provided a series of trainings on legal issues pertinent to care management staff; and guided hundreds of clinical staff with legal technical assistance.
Finally, 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.