The Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC) was established in 1973 to secure and protect the legal rights of persons involved in mental health and intellectually disabled programs in the Commonwealth. MHLAC, appointed by the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, consists of fourteen judges and lawyers who are knowledgeable and experienced in mental health law. The legal staff of MHLAC provides a broad range of legal services to the state's population of persons with mental illness as well as legal referrals, information and advice to individuals, lawyers, mental health professionals and the general public. MHLAC staff also contribute to a wide range of education and training for judges, lawyers and others to maintain quality legal representation and improve the administration of justice when issues related to mental health and disability are presented.
MHLAC's advocacy work reaches individuals and families who are experiencing such problems as denial of access to community-based care and discrimination on the basis of disability. MHLAC also aids adults and minors in public and private facilities who need legal advice about commitment and discharge and the rights to receive or refuse treatment. The Act to Protect the Five Fundamental Rights mandates that all programs and facilities doing business with the Department of Mental Health ensure access to attorneys and advocates of MHLAC and other legal service organizations.