1. Our daughter is struggling with a mental illness. She lives on her own and will not take her medications. We are scared for her safety. What can we do?
There are many things that can be done. To understand your options, you should seek guidance from a mental health attorney or other professional who can guide you through the various resources available to help you and your child, including mobile crisis teams, the EMS system, and the court system. The critical factor is to realize that time is of the essence to insure the safety of your loved one and others.
2. Our son has been hospitalized in a psychiatric facility. What are our rights? What are his rights?
New York's Mental Hygiene Law and other statutes provide a broad array of rights and obligations both for your hospitalized child and his care providers. Additionally, family have certain rights under particular circumstances.
3. What is Assisted Outpatient Treatment under "Kendra's Law"?
Assisted Outpatient Treatment provides for court ordered outpatient care through a court designed treatment plan for individuals who are non-compliant with treatment and meet certain qualifying criteria.
4. How do we help our loved one stay out of an inpatient hospital setting?
This is the most difficult question presented to the Mental Health practitioner. There are many tools in both the mental health legal and clinical systems that may be employed to minimize the recurrence of hospitalization. It is critical to speak to someone who is knowledgeable, has access to critical resources, and can assist you in navigating the maze of laws and clinical options.
5. How can we plan for our severely mentally ill family member's financial future?
There are a number of different legal tools from the formation of certain trusts to the use of a Power-of-Attorney that may serve to secure your loved one's financial future. It is essential to be wary that certain financial decisions may impact on your loved one's ability to qualify for benefits. Accordingly, it is best to seek professional assistance when charting a course for his/her financial future.
6. Can Guardianship assist us in caring for our mentally ill family member?
It should be noted that there is very clear guidance by our Appeals Courts as to what decisions a Guardian may make in terms of psychiatric care and treatment. It is limited and very fact specific.
7. Our mentally ill loved one is accused of committing a crime. What can we do?
Seek legal help immediately from attorneys well versed in both criminal and mental health law. Time is of the essence when a person struggling with a mental illness enters the criminal justice system. Do not presume that law enforcement will be sensitive to your loved one's disability. Statements, actions and other evidence will likely be used against your loved one in a criminal prosecution.
8. What is a Mental Health Warrant?
New York's Mental Hygiene Law provides the legal framework for a family member (and certain other individuals) to make a legal application before a Supreme Court Judge for a Warrant to produce an alleged mentally ill person before the Court. If the Judge is satisfied that the Petitioner (usually a family member) has made a sufficient showing that the alleged mentally ill person is in need of immediate hospitalization for observation, such an Order will generally be granted.
9. How does New York State's new Family Healthcare Decisions Act affect my child's mental health care?
Recent passage of the Family Healthcare Decisions Act (FHCDA) has varying impact on psychiatric and/or medical care and is very fact specific. It is best to review hospital policy on this issue and to consult with a health care legal professional to navigate the myriad of issues surrounding care and the FHCDA.
10. What public benefits can I secure for my mentally ill loved one?
Benefits can include Medicaid, SSI, SSD, Section 8 Housing, Food Stamps, private insurance and many others. The important thing to focus on is preparation and knowledge. Most benefits have lengthy and complicated application processes. Additionally, one should never quit at a first denial. It is best to seek assistance if there is any doubt when considering which benefits are most suitable for your loved ones.