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Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is a national legal-advocacy organization representing people with mental disabilities in the US. Originally known as The Mental Health Law Project, the Center was founded as a national public-interest organization in 1972 by a group of specialized attorneys and mental disability professionals who were working to help the court define a constitutional right to treatment (cf Bryce State Mental Hospital) in terms of specific standards for services and protections. In 1993, the organization changed its name to the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law to honor the legacy of Judge David L. Bazelon, whose decisions as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had pioneered the field of mental health law.

The Center's precedent-setting litigation has established important civil rights for people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. These include the right to treatment in Wyatt v. Stickney (decided in 1971 and successfully concluded in 1999),[1] and the Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring decision affirming the right of people with disabilities to receive public services in the most integrated setting consistent with their needs.[2]

The Center also engages in federal policy advocacy, working with Congress and the administrative agencies to ensure, for example, that people with mental disabilities are included under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act and amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act, and to generate resources such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid that can enable them to live and thrive in the community. In 2009, a major thrust was the integration of mental health in healthcare reform.

The Center provides extensive advocacy resources on its website, including excerpts or full texts of its publications. These range from an analysis of federal programs to assist children in transition out of foster care to a consumer-friendly booklet on how ex-offenders with mental illnesses can access federal benefits promptly upon their release from jail or prison.

Recent publications

Many more publications are listed and available for free download or purchase on the Bazelon Center's publications page.


  1. Wyatt v. Stickney press release and case history by Alabama Department of Mental Health; accessed online December 13, 2006.
  2. Olmstead decision information site at Bazelon Center, accessed online December 13, 2006.

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External links