In 1973 the Massachusetts Legislature established the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC) to secure and protect the legal rights of persons involved in mental health and retardation programs in the Commonwealth. MHLAC, appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, consists of fourteen judges and lawyers knowledgeable and experienced in mental health law.
The work of MHLAC is carried out by a small staff of lawyers who seek to make full use of the law to ensure that the rights of persons who are or may be regarded as mentally disabled are recognized and protected.
The advocacy work of MHLAC reaches to individuals and families denied access to care in the community and who may be discriminated against on the basis of disability as to well as to persons in public and private facilities who require legal advice about commitment and discharge and the rights to receive or refuse treatment. The Act to Protect the Five Fundamental Rights charges all programs and facilities doing business with the Department of Mental Health to ensure access to attorneys and advocates of MHLAC and other legal service organizations.
MHLAC's legal staff provides legal referral, information and advice to individuals, lawyers, mental health professionals and the general public. MHLAC and its staff develop, sponsor and contribute to a wide range of education and training for judges, lawyers and others to maintain quality legal representation and improve the administration of justice when issues related to mental health and disability are presented.
For a historical account of MHLAC and its work, see Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee: The First 35 Years. For current MHLAC work, see Intake Areas Covered, Training, and What We Do.