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  • Mental Health Defender's Office


    MHD is committed to providing the most effective legal representation for people with mental illness who face involuntary commitment, guardianship proceedings and dependency actions.

    Our office not only advises clients of their rights and provides zealous advocacy at trial, but we are dedicated to working patiently and compassionately with clients to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process and receive any treatment they need in the least restrictive manner.

    What we do

    The Mental Health Defender office has three main capacities of representation: court-ordered treatment, guardianship, and guardians ad litem for parents in dependency hearings. 
    1. MHD represents individuals facing civil commitment proceedings pursuant to the Title 36 process.  This includes meeting with clients petitioned for involuntary evaluation, representing clients at hearings on petitions for court-ordered treatment, and advising clients during their year of court-ordered treatment.  MHD attorneys also represent court-ordered clients who face Arizona State Hospital transfer hearings and electro-convulsive therapy hearings, as well as judicial review hearings.  Further, MHD attorneys write and file appeals after these decisions.  Also within the Title 36 realm, MHD represents clients who face court-ordered tuberculosis control.
    2. MHD attorneys represent people petitioned for guardianship.  If a person is indigent and the Public Fiduciary’s Office files for Guardianship,  MHD will provide counsel for the proposed ward and represent the ward’s wishes at the hearing. 
    3. MHD attorneys are appointed as guardians ad litem for parents whose mental illness or mental capacity led to dependency proceedings for their children.  In this respect, MHD is not acting as the parent’s attorney, but instead MHD reports to the court to protect the parent’s interest and/or to act for the parent’s best interest if the parent is incapacitated. 

    Our Attorneys

     

    Ann BowermanAnn L. Bowerman - Chief Counsel

     

    Ann received a B.S. in Public Administration with a major in Accounting from the University of Arizona in 1992, and graduated with honors from Arizona State University College of Law and admitted to the Arizona State Bar in 1995. Ms. Bowerman worked in private practice for two years before she started her own practice in 1997. For 15 years she contracted with the Pima County Office of Court-Appointed Counsel to represent clients with mental illness in Title 36 proceedings as well as elderly or incapacitated individuals facing petitions for guardianship. With the creation of the Pima County Mental Health Defender in 2011, Ms. Bowerman continued this role as an employee of Pima County, and became Chief Counsel of MHD in 2013.   Memberships include the Mental Health Legislative Subcommittee and Los Abogados Hispanic National Bar Association. 




    Molly PettryMolly Pettry

     

    Molly received her B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Spanish Literature from the University of Arizona in 2009, and graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2011. During law school, Molly interned with the Family Advocacy Program as well as the Arizona Center for Disability Law, and clerked for the Honorable Casey Stanford on the Pima County family law bench. Molly joined the Pima County Mental Health Defender in 2012 where she continues her passion of working with indigent people with special needs, and works as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Arizona College of Law.





    Sarah MedleySarah Medley

     

    Sarah graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2011. During law school, she worked as a law clerk for the Pima County Public Defender’s office in a summer externship. She also participated in the Child and Family Law Clinic, representing children in child protection proceedings and adults in family law proceedings. During and after law school she clerked for the Honorable Charles V. Harrington in Pima County Superior Court on both the Probate and Civil Benches, until joining the Pima County Mental Health Defender in 2013. Sarah currently represents adults facing civil-commitment and guardianship proceedings, and is appointed as guardian ad litem in various Juvenile Court matters. Sarah belongs to the Arizona Women Lawyers’ Association Tucson chapter and previously served on its Board.


    John Nolasco

     

    John received his BA in Sociology from the University of New Mexico in 1999 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2005. John was admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin in 2005 (inactive) and was admitted to the State Bar of Arizona in 2011. Prior to attending the University of Wisconsin, John worked as a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Congresswoman Heather Wilson (New Mexico) from 1999-2002. After graduating law school, John served as a Deployment Specialist in the Office of the State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (2005-2006), and served as a Defense Attorney in the Office of the Wisconsin State Public Defender (2007-2009). Then, John moved to Arizona and became a Law Clerk for the Pima County Public Defender (2010-2011). From 2011-2012, John served as a Defense Attorney in the Pima County Public Defender’s office before joining the Pima County Mental Health Defender (2012). John currently represents clients in Title 36 and Title 14 proceedings, as well as serving as guardian ad litem in various cases. Additionally, John was an Adjunct Professor of law at the University of Arizona College of Law (2016).

    FAQ


    1. What does your office do?

      Answer:  We are court appointed defense attorneys who represent clients in civil proceedings. Our clients are people who are either:

      1. Undergoing the Title 36 process (involuntary hospitalization/commitment),
      2. Undergoing the Title 14 process (Guardianship) and is/are indigent.

      3. We are not best interest attorneys for those undergoing the Title 36 or Title 14 attorneys.

    2. My friend/relative is facing criminal charges in Superior Court, and his/her case has been diverted to the Mental Health Court. Can your represent him/her in this case?


      Answer:  No. That is outside the scope of our representation. Our office is appointed by the Court to represent people who are undergoing the Title 36 process (involuntary hospitalization/commitment), which is strictly a Civil, not Criminal, matter. 

    3. If your loved one is facing criminal charges in Superior Court, please contact the Public Defender’s office.

    4. I'm mentally ill and have criminal charges pending in City Court (or Justice Court). Can I hire your office?

      Answer:  No. That is outside the scope of our representation. Our office is appointed by the Court to represent people who are undergoing the Title 36 process (involuntary hospitalization/commitment), which is strictly a Civil, not Criminal, matter. 

      If you are enrolled for services through one of the local behavioral health agencies in town (such as CODAC, La Frontera, etc.), contact your case manager and let him/her know of your situation. Request a court liaison to accompany you to your court date. A court liaison is a representative of the behavioral health agency who can explain to the court that you are currently in mental health treatment and help guide you through the process. The court liaison is not an attorney. 

    5. I am under Court Ordered Treatment (COT) and your office already represents me. Can you represent me in my criminal case?

      Answer:  No. See the Answers above.

    6. My friend/relative is in need of mental health treatment. I want to get him/her into the hospital/in mental health treatment. Can you help?

      Answer:  No. Our office defends clients against involuntary commitment. If your loved one is in crisis, contact the crisis hotline at 622-6000.

      If he/she is under COT, call the treatment team and leave a detailed message with your concerns.  They may not respond to you if they don’t have a release of information, but when they hear the voicemail, they will check on your loved one and assess whether or not he/she needs to be rehospitalized.

      If you’re inquiring about Court Ordered Mental Health Treatment, please contact the County Attorney’s office, Civil Division 724-5700 or visit their website: http://www.pcao.pima.gov/MentalHealth.aspx 

      Emergency: 622-6000
      Non-emergency: You can schedule an intake appointment at CBI by clicking here.

    7. I am under COT and I want to file a grievance against my agency or Cenpatico. What do I need to do?

      Answer:  Contact Cenpatico for the forms and process. If you have internet access, here is the site for the forms/process: https://www.cenpaticointegratedcareaz.com/providers/provider-resources/grievance---appeals.html

      If you are designated SMI, you can also contact the AHCCCS Office of Human Rights for advocacy assistance at 1-800-421-2124.

    8. I am under COT. Do I have to take the meds the doctor prescribes? I don’t like the side-affects or the way they make me feel.

      Answer:  Please discuss medications with your doctor.  If you have done that and don’t like your doctor’s answer, you can file a grievance with Cenpatico by clicking here.

    9. I am under COT. How can I get a hearing to get off of COT?

      Answer:  You are entitled to a judicial review every 60 days, ask your case manager for a form to request judicial review.  When you request a judicial review, your psychiatrist has to re-evaluate to determine whether you still meet the criteria for court-ordered treatment.  That is, 1) do you still have a mental illness, 2) does your mental illness prevent you from making informed decisions about your treatment/does you mental illness make you a danger to yourself or others and 3) are you willing and able to get treatment on your own? 

    10. How do I get my gun rights back?

      Answer:  The first thing you have to do is be off of COT.  Second, you have to find a psychiatrist or a psychologist who will affirm in court that you are safe to own a gun.  Once you’ve done that, you can file the attached for with the Court and ask for a hearing date.
      (Attach petition to restore gun rights)
      Unfortunately, our office cannot represent you in these hearings.

    11. My friend/loved one is in the hospital and has a court hearing scheduled. Who do I call to find out where to go?

      Answer:  You can attempt calling the Court or the County Attorney’s office. Our office cannot give you any information without the express consent of our client, even if you’re a parent, spouse, law enforcement or legal guardian/representative. That means we cannot confirm that your friend/loved one is a client or that s/he is in the hospital, etc. 

      If you call our office requesting any information, our staff will not give out any information they are not authorized to give, but they can take down any information you give.   Our clients must give us express permission to talk to you in order for use to give you information about their case.

    12. I was referred to you by another department: I am trying to get information regarding my friend/loved one’s mental health case.

      Answer:  See answer above.

    13. I am new to the area and would like to get myself/loved one connected with local mental health services. Who do I contact?

      Answer: There are several behavioral health agencies available in Tucson:  COPE, CODAC, LaFrontera, Marana Health Care. 

    14. My case manager won’t call me back.

      Answer:  If it is an emergency, call 622-6000.  If it is not an emergency, please be patient; the mental health system is overworked and understaffed.  When you leave a message for case manager, be specific.  Tell them why you are calling and when you need them to get back to you.  For instance, please call me back by tomorrow because my medication will run out by Monday.  

      If your case manager doesn’t call you back in 3 days, you can ask for their supervisor.  If the supervisor doesn’t call you back in 3 days, you can file a grievance with Cenpatico

    15. My sister says she petitioned me, can I turn myself in so I don’t have to be picked up by police?

      Answer:  Yes, call our office and we will help you arrange that.

    16. I received a bill from the hospital when I was under a court order for evaluation.

      Answer:  Call the Pima County Dept of Behavioral Health - #

    17. My loved one is under COT and he is not doing well, can you put him back in the hospital.  

      Answer:  If he is under COT, call his/her treatment team and leave a detailed message with your concerns.  They may not respond to you if they don’t have a release of information, but when they hear the voicemail, they will check on your loved one and assess whether or not he/she needs to come back to the hospital. 
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    Mental Health Defender

    3950 S. Country Club Rd. #360
    Suite 3460
    Mail Code: 120
    Mailstop #: ABRB-3950-JK3
    Tucson, AZ 85714

    Phone: (520) 724-2890
    Fax: (520) 724-2804


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