About MHAS...

Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. (MHAS) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1977 to provide free legal services to people with mental and developmental disabilities. MHAS is sponsored by the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations and the Mental Health Association in California. MHAS assists both children and adults, with an emphasis on obtaining government benefits and services, protecting rights, and fighting discrimination. MHAS also serves as a resource to the community by providing training and technical assistance to attorneys, mental health professionals, consumer and family member groups, and other advocates. In addition, MHAS participates in impact litigation in an effort to improve the lives of people with mental and developmental disabilities.

MHAS’ projects include the following:

Special Education Outreach Project – 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.

Fair Housing Advocacy Project – MHAS fights housing discrimination against individuals with disabilities through legal representation, fair housing training and legislative advocacy concerning housing opportunities for people with disabilities. MHAS also provides training and technical assistance to fair housing and disability rights advocates, individuals with disabilities and officials from local jurisdictions. MHAS represents individuals with disabilities in a wide range of housing and housing-related matters including landlord-tenant cases.

Government Benefits Advocacy/Access to Mental Health Services Project – Each year MHAS assists hundreds of people with issues related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other Social Security benefits. This assistance includes representing individuals throughout 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. MHAS’ systems-level advocacy includes working with federal, state and local agencies to develop strategies for increasing access to benefits and services for low-income individuals.

Juvenile Advocacy Project – MHAS represents children with serious mental and developmental disabilities in juvenile court, with a focus on abused and neglected youth who are at risk of being institutionalized or “crossing over” to the criminal justice system. In addition, MHAS' Juvenile Advocacy Clinic addresses grievances of minors being held in Los Angeles County juvenile detention facilities.

Impact Litigation In an effort to improve the lives of people with mental disabilities throughout our local and statewide communities, MHAS participates in impact litigation. 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 STAFF

  • MAGGIE BRANDOW
    Staff Attorney

  • JOHN CISNEROZ
    Staff Advocate 

  • RENEE COOK
    Director of Administration & Development 
  • IAN MAGLADRY
    Staff Attorney
  • SHERRILL MARTIN
    Program Manager, Government Benefits 

  • PAMELA MARX
    Supervising Attorney 

  • JESSE NORGAARD
    Administrative Assistant 

  • SYLVIA PHAM
    Staff Attorney

  • JAMES PREIS
    Executive Director 

  • FERNANDO RAMIREZ
    Staff Advocate 
     
  • ELIZA SCHAFLER
    Equal Justice Works Fellow
    Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP

     
  • TINA SEGURA
    Staff Advocate
     
  • NANCY M. SHEA
    Senior Attorney 
     
  • AURORA THOME
    Staff Advocate
     
  • TANYA TORRES
    Staff Advocate
  • M. WALDER
    Staff Advocate 

  • MARY V. WEBSTER
    Staff Advocate