Category Archives: Mental Health

MHLD Seeking Regional Coordinators


May 26, 2015

The Mental Health Litigation Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services is accepting applications for “Regional Coordinators” for the twelve month period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Responsibilities include providing advice and technical assistance to assigned counsel in mental health proceedings, reviewing and monitoring the performance of assigned counsel, both informally and through scheduled performance assessments, investigating complaints as to attorney performance, conducting and/or coordinating eight (8) hours of continuing legal education programs for assigned counsel (subject to the approval of the Division), holding regular meetings of panel attorneys, and serving as liaison between assigned counsel or the Division and the local courts. As requested by the Division, Regional Coordinators may be asked to investigate complaints or conduct oversight in another region, if another Regional Coordinator cannot do so, due to a conflict. Regional Coordinators will also assist in the Mental Health Panel recertification process, as requested, including courtroom observation. The Regional Coordinators will be required to participate in regular meetings of Mental Health Litigation Division Regional Coordinators and submit written, narrative, quarterly reports detailing their activities, in addition to billing in the format required by eBill. These are contractual positions and the total hours under each will vary according to location and the number of assigned counsel served.

Applicants must possess the following minimum qualifications: membership in the Massachusetts bar; current CPCS Mental Health Litigation certification; extensive trial experience, including a minimum of five years mental health litigation experience; and the ability to maintain good relationships with fellow attorneys and judicial personnel. Due to the changing nature of mental health panel representation, extensive Probate Court guardianship practice on behalf of Respondents and familiarity with Probate Court procedure is preferred.

The following Regional Coordinator Positions are available for FY 2016:

Barnstable and Plymouth Counties – 1 Middlesex – 2
Berkshire and Hampden – 1 Norfolk – 1
Essex – 1 Suffolk – 2
Franklin and Hampshire – 1 Worcester – 1

To apply, please send by email a statement of interest, a current resume, a writing sample, and the names of two references by June 9, 2015 to: Karen Owen Talley, Assistant Director at Please indicate which position you are applying for.

Joan Mikula To Lead Department Of Mental Health

BOSTON — On May 11, EOHHS Secretary, Marylou Sudders, announced that Joan Mikula, has been promoted to serve as Commissioner of Mental Health; a position she has held on an interim basis since March. Mikula has worked for the Department since 1985, serving as Deputy and Assistant Commissioner of Child and Adolescent Services. She has prior experience in education, child welfare, criminal justice, and substance abuse treatment and served as Executive Director of a North Shore, non-profit human service agency. As Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Mikula will oversee a public operated and private contracted mental health system serving an estimated 23,000 individuals with mental illness and their families. More from

SCOTUS Decides First Police-Shooting Case Since Ferguson. Police Get Qualified Immunity

If you’re a police officer called on to help a woman coping with a serious mental illness, but on arrival, she feels threatened after you use a key to let yourself into her apartment, what do you do? What if, in response to your entry, she grabs a small kitchen knife and yells, “I am going to kill you. I don’t need help”? The Supreme Court decided that if you shoot her multiple times, you get qualified immunity. They were able to avoid answering the question of whether the ADA required them to make accommodations due to her disability since the petitioner (City and County of San Francisco) didn’t argue the issue on appeal. The case is not over, nor is the ADA issue resolved. The case was remanded to the US District Court. Here is a link to the opinion and some commentary on the decision. Don’t forget to look Scalia’s concurrence with whom Justice Kagan concurred. Commentary in
NY Magazine

Urban Institute Issue Report on Mentally Ill in Prisons and Jails

The prevalence of mental illness is significant. Well over 50% of state prison and jail inmates report having mental health problems. For women the number is even higher. The report highlights the fact that mentally ill prisoners tend to have higher recidivism rates than those without mental health problems. This is concerning not only because it indicates that people who suffer from mental illness may have trouble establishing a self-sustaining and law-abiding life after release from prison, but also because it has a direct impact on economic and societal costs. On the economic side, these include criminal justice costs (such as those incurred by the police, courts, jails, parole, probation, and prisons). Societal costs include things like victimization and reduced educational or employment opportunities. Read the report.

Human Rights Watch Issues report: “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons”

The report issued this week, details incidents in which correctional staff have deluged prisoners with painful chemical sprays, shocked them with powerful electric stun weapons, and strapped them for days in restraining chairs or beds. Staff have broken prisoners’ jaws, noses, ribs; left them with lacerations requiring stitches, second-degree burns, deep bruises, and damaged internal organs. In some cases, the force used has led to their death. Read HRW press release and entire report.

For a look at a what can happen in Massachusetts, WGBH had a segment about the Joshua Messier case this past week on Greater Boston.

PBS News Hour Report: A minority view on hospice and end of life care.

“Black seniors are more likely than whites and Latinos to forgo hospice care. Due to deeply felt religious beliefs and a long history of discrimination in the U.S., African-American patients are often reluctant to plan for the end of their lives, and more skeptical when doctors suggest stopping treatment. Special correspondent Sarah Varney reports on efforts to change some of those beliefs.”
Link to PBD News Hour

Reasonable Accommodations: Do the lives of the mentally ill matter to the Supreme Court?

This week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The case could settle the extent to which the Americans With Disabilities Act serves as a check on police officers’ interactions with people with mental illnesses. The law demands local governments to provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities, and courts have interpreted that guarantee to include arrests—that is, police should take into account the people’s disabilities when taking them into custody. But the law isn’t uniform across the board on whether cops should make such accommodations if the arrestee exhibits violent or erratic behavior. Does an outburst by a woman who is suffering from schizoaffective disorder, hasn’t taken her medication, and is found holding a small bread knife in her own home automatically strip her of legal protection? Read about the case at Slate and the Christian Science Monitor

From the MOLST Folks: 2014 Update to Massachusetts Expert Panel on End of Life Care Report

This one in a series of reports on end of life care from UMass. It highlights issues relating to the use of a MOLST, which is a medical form similar to a prescription. It contains instructions from a clinician (physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) to other heath professionals (e.g., nurses, emergency responders), about what life-sustaining medical treatments use or not use, based on the patient’s own decisions. Read the report: UMASS_MAExpertPanelEndofLife_3-2015 Access the MOLST web page

Huffington Post Op Ed: Elements of a Public Policy Discussion Concerning the Treatment of Mental Illness

Not sure if I see everything the way the author does, but Brad Reed asks some good questions.

“We are all touched directly or indirectly by mental illness. Many commentators note unresolved issues and debatable policies within our mental health system. It is time as a society to rethink our approach to mental illness. This comment begins with an explanation of “public policy,” followed by a very brief general history of our society’s approach to mental illness, and concludes with 15 of the many questions that should be studied and debated.” Article