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Future of Advocacy for Persons With Mental Disabilities

NCJ Number
Rutgers Law Review Volume: 39 Issue: 2-3 Dated: (Winter-Spring 1987) Pages: 443-486
S S Herr
Date Published
44 pages
Rights for mentally disabled persons are meaningless without a comprehensive system of advocacy designed to implement them; thus, an integrated and comprehensive advocacy network is needed.
However, the movement for advocacy on behalf of the mentally disabled faces a period of both crisis and opportunity. The funding cutbacks and retrenchment that have occurred in social programs in recent years make it essential to consider the issue of advocacy. Advocacy is needed to enforce rights, ensure access to programs and benefits, protect human dignity, empower clients to exercise a measure of autonomy and control over basic decisions in their lives, and promote reform of laws, regulations, and social service systems. Models of advocacy include legal advocacy, lay advocacy, self-advocacy, 'friend' advocacy, human rights committees, and the internal rights protection provided by agencies that perform mental disability treatment services. However, major barriers exist to obtaining effective access to advocacy services and hence meaningful access to avenues of redress. An advocacy system should provide free contact with and from clients, access to justice, stability through adequate funding, and quality. The rise of self-advocacy groups and the pressure for advocacy work that transcends artificial distinctions based on client labeling will strongly affect the future of advocacy services. Additional areas needing attention are the need for alternative dispute resolution, training of lawyers and other professionals to effectively represent clients and disabilities, councils of lay and professional advocates to divide the work and share the resources. 179 footnotes.


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