Mental Health Law involves the ways in which mental health and legal issues intersect and is therefore as diverse as the human experience. BLH’s mental health practice focuses on several key aspects of this intersection:
1. Court Monitoring/Mediation and Expert Consultation concerning Correctional and Hospital-Based Institutional Reform Litigations.
When public institutions such as prisons, jails, or forensic hospitals have systems of mental health care which are alleged to violate constitutional or statutory requirements, a court may order remedial actions. This, in turn, calls for a neutral party to help interpret the order, develop a matrix by which the obligations are measured, provide technical assistance to the state actors seeking to comply with legal requirements, and report to the court on compliance with the ordered remedial actions. Prior to trial, a party may seek expert consultation about the viability of various claims or what steps should be taken to avert litigation. This requires an assessment of the system of care measured against legal and professional standards. Likewise, the parties to a conditions case may seek mediation of claims of systemic deficiencies before a case goes to trial, or consultation about a constructive way to wind down the remedial phase of such a litigation. Partner Henry Dlugacz has decades of experience in all phases of these matters, especially with respect to jails, prisons, and forensic hospitals, as well as decades of subject-matter expertise in these areas.
2. Guardianships/Assisted Outpatient Commitments/Retentions and Medication over Objections.
While competent adults are free to lead their lives as they choose, when a person’s competence to make decisions is called into question those rights may be abridged by government actors. In these situations, there are varying legal proceedings, each with a differing legal standard, which come into play. These include the appointment of a guardian to oversee aspects of a person’s personal and or financial life or the retention of a person in a psychiatric hospital over his or her objection. Involuntary hospitalization may be accompanied by a petition seeking the administration of psychotropic medication over the person’s objection. When a person is residing in the community, an interested party may seek an order requiring that a person follow an approved treatment plan for psychiatric treatment. Partner Henry Dlugacz has worked for years on all aspects of these proceedings, having been appointed by courts as a neutral evaluator, representing hospitals and family members seeking court sanction of these orders, and representing people who are the subjects of these proceedings.