The Little Agency That Could: Louisiana’s Mental Health Advocacy Service

By Rebecca May-Ricks and Kathy Lynn Cook, Published in American Bar Association – Children’s Rights Litigation (online)

The Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) was established in the late 1970s as part of Louisiana’s Division of Administration under the Office of the Governor and overseen by a private board of trustees—civil service with a twist. MHAS was staffed by a handful of specialized attorneys who were charged with representing clients in all behavioral health judicial commitments across the state. While MHAS was never short of clients, the same could not be said of funding until 1981, when a federal district court found that patients have a constitutional right to legal counsel in commitment proceedings in Louisiana and permanently enjoined the state to fund MHAS. Brad G. et al. v. David C. Treen, No. 81-1094F(3) (E.D. La. 1981).

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