Community Mental Health Law Project:
Mental Health Law Project to Be Relocated on
Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
Effecitive Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the Mental Health Law Project of the Bergen County Department of Health Services will be located at:
One Bergen County Plaza
When exiting the public elevator on the 4th floor,
proceed to the reception area straight ahead. The phone number is unchanged: 201-634-2760
Fourth (4th) Floor
Hackensack, New Jersey 07601
The Community Mental Health Law Project is a special law office designed to provide services to the chronically mentally ill of Bergen County. The project is an active participant in the community mental health system and receives referrals from both the private and public sectors. Since 1976, the department has represented thousands of clients in a wide variety of civil and municipal court matters. The Law Project handles a large number of family law matters, such as divorce, visitation, custody and support issues. The staff of attorneys and psychiatric social worker provide specialized legal services and supportive advocacy, as well as counseling and outreach.
A greater emphasis is placed in the areas of family, housing and tenancy law, and procurement of social security benefits on behalf of the client population. A significant number of cases involve insurance discrimination; financial issues, including bankruptcy litigation; employment discrimination; and public benefits and entitlements. Within the past few years program eligibility standards were expanded to include individuals with drug and alcohol addictions, AIDS, and those with chronic mental illness but without six months of psychiatric hospitalizations, in keeping with the shift toward de-institutionalization and shorter hospital admissions. Consequently, in addition to having psychiatric disorders, many clients suffer from substance addiction, physical illness and abuse, mental retardation and homelessness. The needs of these special populations are complex.
Recently, the Law Project has become more involved in protecting the rights of juvenile offenders in the court system who suffer from mental illness, and throughits participation in CART, has advocated for alternatives to incarceration and institutionalization with the goal of addressing the individual needs of clients in a community based setting.
Recent studies have shown an alarming increase in juvenile violence. The Law Project has advocated for the development of innovative and effective treatment modalities to address this trend through early intervention.
Another increasing trend in 2001 was the number of cases in municipal courts involving disorderly persons, shoplifting and the issuance of bad checks. This increase reflects a reduction in benefits and entitlement programs and earlier discharges from psychiatric hospitals.
Accomplishments for 2001 as follows:
- 290 new cases were opened.
- 73 Social Security matters went to hearing and benefits were obtained in excess of $350,000 on behalf of clients.
- 32 favorable decisions were obtained at hearing level on other entitlements cases.
- Over $525,000 in Medicaid and Medicare benefits was secured on behalf of clients to pay for hospital and nursing home costs.
- Approximately $68,000 in grants was obtained through a variety of agencies and organizations to prevent homelessness.
- 94 new family law cases were opened and 28 final restraining orders were obtained to protect victims of domestic violence from violent offenders.
- 27 families were reunited after clients nhad successfully completed their treatment plan.
- 86 evictions were prevented.
- Staff made presentations to patients and advocacy groups, psychiatric staff and other mental health professionals on legal issues affecting the mentally ill and their families