The Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center is a team of attorneys, social workers and advocates dedicated to enforcing the rights of low-income New Yorkers with mental illness. We represent individual clients, bring class action lawsuits and engage in community education and outreach with the belief that low-income people with mental illness are entitled to live stable and full lives, free from discrimination.
What Do We Do?
- Homelessness Prevention/Income Maintenance: Represent clients in housing matters and advocate for social policies that combat homelessness. Ensure that clients have access to benefits, including food stamps, Social Security and public assistance.
- Discharge Planning: Enforce state and federal laws requiring hospitals, jails and prisons to provide people with mental illness with crucial social services prior to discharge.
- Criminal Justice: Fight against the criminalization of mental illness and for the humane treatment of people in prison with mental illness.
- Disability Rights: Advocate for the rights of people with mental illness to live in the least restrictive setting appropriate, and to be active participants in decisions regarding their lives.
- Advocacy for Veterans: Assist veterans with PTSD and other mental health problems by providing legal services to access housing, health care and income.
Why Is Our Work Necessary?
Low-income people with severe and persistent mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than other Americans. Many cycle between hospitals, jails and the streets. To beat the odds, our clients need assistance obtaining the basic necessities of life: food, housing, medical care and clothing. To ensure stability and dignity, they need still more: community integration and government programs that truly provide a social safety net.
- Won nearly $1 billion in retroactive benefits pursuant to Clark v. Astrue, a class action lawsuit challenging the Social Security Administration's policy of suspending the benefits of tens of thousands of retired and disabled people based on often-erroneous warrants;
- Won an enforcement action on behalf of thousands of incarcerated people with mental illness to ensure that they receive court-mandated discharge planning services pursuant to Brad H. v. City of New York;
- Brought suit against the Social Security Administration for failure to provide full and fair hearings to disabled claimants whose cases are assigned to biased judges in Queens, New York.