Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

MFY Legal Services, Inc.

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

May 2015

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

April 2012 – April 2014

People hospitalized because of mental illness are in crisis, and the things that bring some stability to their lives—a home, income, or government benefits—can unravel during their hospitalization.

In the time leading up to the hospitalization, an individual may have lost the judgment to properly manage important responsibilities, such as paying the rent or responding to legal notices. In addition, problems with insurance frequently can arise during the hospitalization, leaving the patient in debt or forcing the hospital to absorb the costs. Such issues can result in obstacles to proper discharge planning or longer hospital stays.

To address this issue, NYHealth awarded MFY Legal Services a grant to implement a sustainable medical-legal partnership among attorneys and health care providers at North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, a 223-bed psychiatric facility.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Instituted multiple trainings for social work and discharge staff members;
  • Met with patients and providers on-site twice per month;
  • Opened more than 40 new cases on-site after 10 months;
  • Initiated the program at two New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) hospital sites (Bellevue Hospital Center and Kings County Hospital Center) after MYF Legal Services was unable to reach an agreement with Zucker Hillside Hospital to continue the program. The program established at Bellevue Hospital Center has continued; and
  • Began negotiations with HHC to provide similar services at two other HHC locations: Gouverneur Health and Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center.

While collaborating with Zucker Hillside Hospital on this project, MFY Legal Services identified a larger policy problem related to inadequate services delivered by Article 81 guardians, court-appointed persons authorized to manage affairs for someone who has been found incapacitated to make larger decisions. Examples of inadequate guardianship services include failing to pay rent, relinquishing a person’s housing rights without exploring all available supports, and arranging for institutional rather than community-based care for persons under guardianship. This in turn may cause delayed release from the hospital or lead to an unnecessarily long stay in a nursing home or other facility for individuals. To address this issue, MFY Legal Services has partnered with Mental Hygiene Legal Service and the Guardianship Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on efforts that would prohibit nursing homes from bringing guardianship petitions for the purpose of resolving a debt dispute with patients.