LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month (May), esteemed mental health attorney Carolyn Reinach Wolf has embarked on an awareness campaign to encourage individuals and families struggling with mental health issues to understand their legal rights and how to best advocate for them.
Ms. Wolf, Executive Partner at the law firm of Abrams Fensterman and Director of its Mental Health Law Practice, is one of the few family-focused mental healthcare attorneys in the country. Supported by a team of mental health clinicians and related professionals, she specializes in guiding families through the complex landscape of legal issues that impact loved ones with serious mental illness, substance abuse issues or other mental health concerns.
According to Ms. Wolf, families and loved ones of individuals with mental health issues must litigate for their rights as they pertain to an individual’s mental health treatment and other matters. These rights include but are not limited to:
- The right to bring forward a legal proceeding to have someone appointed to manage the individual’s health care and/or financial affairs
- The right to request that a court direct their loved one to be committed to a hospital for evaluation and/or treatment (depending on state law)
- The right to obtain an Order of Protection if their loved one is threatening or violent toward others in a family or living situation
- The right to apply for guardianship, as appropriate, to support a loved one’s efforts to get stability and protection for the individual with mental health and related issues
Moreover, individuals with mental health issues are afforded certain rights pursuant to existing federal and state laws. These include but are not limited to:
- The right to a court hearing and legal representation if they request their release from a psychiatric unit before the hospital believes they should be discharged or they refuse treatment
- The right to not include family or loved ones in discharge plans from mental health facilities
- The right to make choices not in their best interest unless shown to a court that they lack the capacity to manage their lives or pose a danger to themselves and/or others
Ms. Wolf says there are other legal means for families looking to play a role in their loved one’s treatment, including healthcare proxies, living wills and powers of attorney. That said, these vehicles are all fully revocable and thus more tenuous for individuals who have a history of mental health crises.
A detailed list of legal rights specific to individuals and families/loved ones affected by mental illness is available online at https://www.abramslaw.com/mentalhealthrights.
As part of the awareness campaign, Carolyn is encouraging mental health clinicians and other professionals who work closely with families – attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, etc. – to use and/or share the online legal content as necessary.
“There are too few attorneys specializing in mental health law for the number of individuals and families struggling to cope with the legal aspects accompanying serious mental health issues,” said Ms. Wolf. “While nothing can serve as a substitute for personalized legal counsel, it is my hope that this resource will go a long way toward providing crucial and needed assistance for those who need such help and don’t know where to turn.”