MoFo News Item

MoFo Improves Accommodations for Citizens with Mental Disabilities in Los Angeles

16 Aug 2018

A Morrison & Foerster pro bono team, together with co-counsel Public Counsel, Disability Rights Legal Center, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty, achieved a positive result for Los Angeles County citizens with mental disabilities who require access to basic subsistence benefits. As a result of the three-year federal court litigation brought by non-profit organizations Housing Works and Independent Living Center of Southern California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services implemented several improvements, including these four key changes to its practices:

  • A remote application process that can be accessed offsite;
  • Simplification of the General Relief (GR) application process;
  • Same-day assessments by trained mental health professionals for designations of “Needs Special Assistance”; and
  • Improved processes for providing reasonable accommodations to disabled GR applicants and participants.

Prior to these changes, many individuals had been effectively denied GR assistance because their disabilities made it impossible for them to complete the application process. The County did not have in place effective accommodations to ensure that these individuals, some of the most vulnerable in the community, could access life-saving benefits. As a result of the successful outcome, Central District of California Judge George H. Wu awarded approximately $1.8 million in attorney’s fees, acknowledging that the lawsuit had been the catalyst for the County’s changes.

The MoFo Los Angeles-based team was led by senior counsel Charles Barquist, partner Ryan Malloy, and associates Heriberto Alvarez, Jr. and Matthew Hofer. Key support was provided by Los Angeles paralegal Alicia Lopez.

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