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Columbian Lawyers educated on mental hygiene legal services

April 5, 2018 By Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Betsey Jean-Jacques, left, and Janet McFarland gave a presentation on mental hygiene legal services at the monthly Columbian Lawyers Association meeting. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo
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Members of the Columbian Lawyers Association received a lesson on mental hygiene legal services (MHLS) at its monthly meeting in Dyker Heights, where Betsey Jean-Jacques and Janet McFarland presented “The Ins and Outs of Mental Hygiene: Hospitalizations to Civil Commitment and So Much More.”

McFarland and Jean-Jacques set up two empty chairs in front of them at the Rex Manor and prefaced their presentation by saying they would not be getting through all that MLHS encompasses.

“We’d be here for a week if we had to go through every area,” McFarland said. “But the one thing we promise you is by the time you leave here, you will know how to get that crazy family member civilly committed in a psych ward at a hospital.”

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McFarland is a court attorney referee at Family Court in Staten Island. She graduated from Brooklyn Law School and is now the first vice president of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association.

Brooklyn native Jean-Jacques is the principal law clerk to the Hon. Francois Rivera at Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and the corresponding secretary of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association.

Together they’ve worked in MHLS for more than 10 years.

“A lot of people don’t know that everything you do, mental hygiene legal services is kind of in the background,” Jean-Jacques told the crowd. She explained that it practices as checks and balances reserving the rights of patients in hospitals, making sure proper treatment is given.


The two won the crowd over when they invited guests into the presentation.

“So our first guest is Warren Warrant,” Jean-Jacques said as she raised a picture of President Donald J. Trump.

The situation followed: The 71-year-old Warrant had been posting strange things on Twitter while trying to fire the mailman and gardener.

The pair explained that if his family wanted him to go to the hospital and he refused, they could get a mental hygiene warrant from the court, which McFarland says is easy to acquire.

Once the judge signs off on it, law enforcement can be called to bring the person to court and eventually the hospital.

Another option in the process could be calling a mobile health crisis unit, which is a team of health professionals that can come to the person’s home and evaluate them, making a warrant easier to get.

The next guest ready to fill the empty chair next to Warren was Anthony Adult, represented by a photo of former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Adult was found shouting about running for mayor when the police brought him to the hospital.

He refused to take his medication and didn’t want to be hospitalized but the staff can treat him over objection, Jean-Jacques said. In this case, the hospital has to provide proof that the patient doesn’t have the capability to make his own decision.

In the event that Adult improves but doesn’t want to continue his medication upon relief, the law allows for an assisted outpatient treatment program. The program would set him up with a group to follow him around and make sure he takes his medicine.

Running out of time, the speakers ended assuring the audience that there was much more to be discussed in the realm of MHLS.

The association will be back at the Rex Manor in Dyker Heights on May 1 for elections.

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