Stability for those battling mental illness and drug addiction

MFY Legal SMPosted by Rebecca Hobble

This blog is part of our 2016 High Impact Giving Guide preview series. Now in its sixth year, the guide is a resource for donors who want to make a greater social impact with their giving. Here, we’re giving you a sneak peek at some of the organizations we profile in the guide that are doing impressive work around the world, solving some of society’s biggest challenges.


A drop in income or an illegal eviction notice would test any of us. But for those battling mental illness and/or drug addiction, it can start a downward spiral that creates even more hurdles to stability and recovery. That’s where medical-legal partnerships come in: Attorneys train health care providers to recognize when a legal issue, such as improper denial of treatment, is impeding recovery. And lawyers work directly with mental health patients to resolve financial or housing-related issues.

Medical-legal partnerships help mentally ill patients to remain in their homes and out of financial crisis. MFY Legal Services, for example, serves about 1,600 New Yorkers annually, helping people with mental illness, including those with co-occurring substance use disorders (about 40% of their client population). MFY’s Mental Health Law Project has relationships with 11 of New York City’s public hospitals, and receives referrals from hundreds of city- and state-funded mental health programs that identify a legal need affecting a patient’s health.

Legal support reduces the need for costly emergency services by preventing homelessness and helping clients access thousands of dollars in government benefits, such as disability benefits and public assistance, for which they are eligible. For every dollar spent, there is a return of up to $1.80.

Want to help this cause? Attorneys, social workers, law school graduates, and law students can volunteer in many ways through MFY’s Opportunities page. Or you can donate any amount through its link on the NYCharities website. To identify similar medical-legal partnerships in your community, explore the mapping tool provided by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnerships. For those interested in supporting the development of new partnerships, the National Center also provides toolkits and other guidance.

For more high impact opportunities like this, see our full High Impact Giving Guide, coming November. Sign up for our listserv to stay up to date on the release of the guide and our other work.

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