Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP)

Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) empowers people with mental health and developmental disabilities to live more independent, secure, and satisfying lives through the enforcement of their legal rights and the advancement of their social and economic well being.


Employee Spotlight: Ruby Renteria

Congratulations are in order for Ruby Renteria, a third year law student at Santa Clara University who has been with the Law Foundation for over two years.

Ruby received a scholarship towards her continued education and was recognized last month by the Santa Clara County La Raza Lawyers' Association for her commitment to the advancement of the Latino community through her legal work with the Law Foundation. She is a Certified Law Clerk with the Law Foundation and works with clients who a have mental or physical health disability.

Ruby is a valued colleague who works with many of our Spanish speaking clients. Recently, Ruby secured affordable housing for one family on the verge of losing their home. We're proud of you, Ruby!

Meaningful Change for Inmates

Our own Chief Executive Officer, Alison Brunner, was recently appointed to a Blue Ribbon Commission charged with investigating the Santa Clara County Jail.

The commission aims to tackle overall conditions and operations at the jail after the alleged beating death of an inmate with a mental health disability by three correctional officers. "It is complicated and there is no silver bullet," said Brunner. She joins 25 other community leaders also tapped to serve on the commission.

Read Alison's full statement here.

About Mental Health Advocacy Project

Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) empowers people with mental health and developmental disabilities to live more independent, secure, and satisfying lives through the enforcement of their legal rights and the advancement of their social and economic well-being.

How MHAP Helps

  • Free legal advice and representation for individuals with mental health or developmental disabilities.
  • Educational workshops and technical assistance for mental health consumers, community groups, mental health service providers, public officials, attorneys, and staff at community-based organizations
  • Policy advocacy

MHAP Works in the Following Issue Areas

MHAP’s Economic Rights Unit

  • Public and Private Benefits and Insurance: Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medi-Cal, Medicare, CalWORKs, Healthy Families, General Assistance and unemployment benefits.

MHAP’s Housing Rights Unit

  • Rental Housing Rights: evictions, subsidy terminations, abuse and neglect in housing, landlord-tenant disputes, and habitability problems.
  • Housing Discrimination: differential treatment against residents and housing applicants based on disability, and reasonable accommodations.

MHAP’s Patients’ Rights Unit

  • Rights in Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities: unnecessary use of seclusion or restraint, over-medication or forced medication, denial of statutory rights including right to have visitors, abuse and neglect, voting rights, and right to least restrictive treatment environment.
  • Rights in Outpatient Mental Health Programs: access to necessary mental health treatment, and statutory rights including the right to be treated with dignity and respect the and right to informed consent about treatment and medication.
  • Involuntary hospitalization and medication: representation at due process hearings for individuals who are held against their will in psychiatric facilities or involuntarily medicated.

Expressed Interest Philosophy

MHAP advocates and attorneys operate consistently with our expressed interest philosophy, empowering our clients to make their own decisions about the course of their legal representation.

MHAP Client Stories

Rosalia’s Story

In a vicious cycle, mental health problems can lead to isolation, poverty and homelessness, putting treatment out of reach. People like Rosalia and her family, who struggle to get by in a region with a high cost of living, are particularly vulnerable. MHAP provides legal help with housing issues, access to mental health services and patients’ rights.MHAP was able to restore Rosalia’s original subsidy, thereby keeping the family together in their established home. During the six-month legal process, MHAP also prevented Rosalia’s eviction and helped her apply for emergency financial assistance. Rosalia, a single mother living with chronic depression, was facing the loss of her family home of 14 years due to cuts to her subsidized housing voucher. Her rent suddenly doubled with the loss of the voucher, and she could not afford the increased rent. Rosalia turned to the Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) to help keep her family together. Not only does Rosalia manage the challenge of her own depression, she is the caretaker for her two young adult children, who also have diagnosed mental health conditions. Providing them with a stable home and proper care has always been her top priority.

Margie’s Story

Many landlords are not aware that they have the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to their policies for people with disabilities. MHAP’s client Margie owned her mobile home and has lived in the same mobile home park for over 30 years. Her limited mobility and other health issues impaired her ability to maintain her property. After Margie lost her job, she lacked sufficient funds to pay for repairs to the home, and the unit fell into disrepair. Park management threatened to evict her if she did not make improvements to her unit. MHAP made a reasonable accommodation request to management for additional time to make repairs, and for months following the request, negotiated with the management to prevent eviction. Ultimately, because of her disabilities and lack of funds, Margie was unable to make the requested repairs by the extended compliance deadlines, and the management filed an unlawful detainer lawsuit against her. MHAP defended Margie in the lawsuit and helped her obtain emergency financial assistance from a community partner agency. With those emergency assistance funds, Margie repaired the unit and MHAP negotiated a settlement of the unlawful detainer which allowed Margie to stay in her home and maintain her tenancy in the park. MHAP’s work to help Margie keep her home is an example of our efforts to help low-income clients living with disabilities maintain access to safe, affordable housing.

Willie’s Story

Access to a source of income and health care are critical to overall mental health stability. Willie has experienced mental health problems since childhood, which have affected his ability to be self-sufficient and one reason he has received Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income since 2002. However, a number of issues, including debilitating physical health conditions and a long period of homelessness, caused him to stop receiving mental health treatment. This led the Social Security Administration to believe Willie was no longer disabled and in 2010 began the process to terminate his disability benefits. With the threat of losing his income, Willie turned to Mental Health Advocacy Project for assistance in appealing the termination decision. In the interim, MHAP referred him to low-cost mental health services, and these providers indicated that Willie clearly needed continued disability benefits. At a hearing before an administrative law judge, MHAP successfully argued that Willie’s disability was continuing and therefore remained eligible for disability benefits. Now, Willie continues to receive his federal disability benefits and health care coverage, enabling him to stay connected to mental health services and to maintain stable housing.


Hilary Armstrong
Directing Attorney

Marlene Bennett
Supervising Attorney

Molly Brennan
Senior Attorney

Kara Brodfuehrer
Senior Attorney

Taylor Campion
Staff Attorney

Hagar Dickman
Staff Attorney

Jazmin Garcia
Intake Specialist

Steve Hernandez
Contracts Coordinator

Samuel Jain
Staff Attorney

Anuja Kumaria
Staff Attorney

Spencer Liechty
Jesuit Volunteer

Denise Miller
Staff Attorney

Melissa Morris
Supervising Attorney

Rachel Mino
Staff Attorney

Becky Moskowitz
Senior Attorney

Kim Pederson
Senior Attorney

Jim Raphael
Senior Patients' Rights Advocate

Jess Shalvoy
Jesuit Volunteer

Chris Vu
Peer Intern

Sarah Webb
Supervising Attorney

Megan Wheelehan
Staff Attorney

Contact MHAP

Intake: (408) 294-9730 or (800) 248-6427

Address: Mental Health Advocacy Project
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
152 North Third Street, 3rd Floor
San Jose, CA 95112

Map: Click here

Fax: (408) 350-1158

Email: Send E-Mail

MHAP Eligibility

MHAP provides free legal services to any eligible individual.

Any individual who lives in Santa Clara County and who self-identifies himself or herself as having a mental health or developmental disability may be eligible for our services.

Please contact MHAP to find out if we can help you. If MHAP is unable to help you, we may be able to suggest other useful resources.

Please note that MHAP has limited staff and resources to serve clients. Unfortunately, we cannot represent every client who has a meritorious legal case. The delivery of services in a priority case will be dependent upon case acceptance guidelines, the availability of services from other sources, financial resources and available staff, which may vary from time to time.