The Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS) is a New York State agency responsible for representing, advocating and litigating on behalf of individuals receiving services for a mental disability. It is the oldest and most comprehensive legal advocacy program for the mentally disabled in the United States. Originally created by the New York State Legislature in 1964 as the Mental Health Information Service to act as the guardian of due process rights for the institutionalized mentally disabled, the agency functioned primarily in an informational and ombudsman capacity.
In 1986, the agency became the Mental Hygiene Legal Service and over the years has evolved into a dedicated legal advocacy program providing a broad range of protective legal services and assistance to mentally disabled persons under the care or jurisdiction of State-operated or licensed facilities. In the 1990's our mandate was expanded to include critical roles in Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) Article 81 Guardianship and most MHL §9.60 Assisted Outpatient Treatment ("Kendra's Law") proceedings. Most recently, in 2007, we were mandated by the new MHL Art 10 to provide representation and advocacy to sex offenders alleged to have mental abnormalities making them likely to re-offend and are therefore in need of civil confinement or intensive supervision. (Request access to online CLE/Training Video programs.)