The History of CPR
Over 40 years of legal service to people with disabilities:
A history of successful advocacy
1972 CPR’s predecessor, the Mental Patients Advocacy Project (MPAP) is founded as a branch office of the Western Massachusetts Legal Services (WMLS) to represent clients at the Northampton State Hospital to enforce their civil and legal rights.
1975 MPAP attorneys successfully appeal a civil commitment case. The opinion in Gallup v. Alden establishes, for the first time in Massachusetts law, that before a court may commit an individual with mental illness, it must consider whether there is a less restrictive alternative to involuntary hospitalization.
1975 MPAP attorneys sue on behalf of mentally retarded residents of Belchertown State School to establish their right to vote. The Supreme Judicial Court in Boyd v. Register of Voters of Belchertown orders the town to allow the residents to register to vote. Boyd is one of the first disability related voting rights cases in the United States.
1976 The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awards a significant three year grant to MPAP together with the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and Hampshire College to investigate whether non-attorneys can be trained to represent hospitalized individuals with mental illness. MPAP expands its office at the Northampton State Hospital and recruits students from UMass, Hampshire, and Mt. Holyoke Colleges to train as advocates. MPAP managing attorney Steven J. Schwartz, University of Massachusetts Professor Stephen Arons and Hampshire College Professor Oliver Fowlkes are the leaders of the program.
1976 Frustrated by their inability to get out of the Northampton State Hospital, patients there seek MPAP’s help. MPAP and WMLS attorneys respond by filing what will become the landmark case of Brewster v. Dukakis, claiming on behalf of a class of current and future residents of Northampton State Hospital that the state’s failure to provide them with community-based alternatives to the hospital violated their constitutional rights. The Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and the Massachusetts Association for Retarded Citizens join the case as plaintiffs.
1977 MPAP attorney Steven J. Schwartz and Boston College Law School Professor Donald K. Stern write “Trial Manual for Civil Commitment,” published by the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee. The trial manual is the first comprehensive aid for Massachusetts lawyers representing people in civil commitment hearings and will remain the standard text for more than a decade.
1978 After two years of legal wrangling and intense negotiations, United States District Court Judge Frank Freedman approves a wide ranging Consent Decree which guarantees the establishment of appropriate community-based services for class members. The Brewster Consent Decree becomes a national model for the development of a comprehensive community mental health system.
1979 MPAP expands legal advocacy for people with disabilities by joining together with Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services and Southeastern Massachusetts Legal Services to open mental health advocacy offices to serve institutionalized people at Metropolitan State Hospital and Corrigan Mental Health Center.
1979 The National Institute of Mental Health renews its grant to MPAP for another three years, allowing MPAP’s attorneys and advocates to represent the people discharged to the community from Northampton State Hospital.
1981 MPAP joins together with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and other advocacy groups to form the Coalition for the Legal Rights of People with Disabilities (CLRD), the state’s first cross-disability legal advocacy coalition. CLRD continues today to be one of the state’s most effective voices for disability rights.
1981 MPAP attorneys participate as friend of the court in a series of Massachusetts cases which establish the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to refuse treatment with antipsychotic medication.
1982 In an atmosphere of massive budget cuts to federally funded legal services programs, MPAP staff reluctantly sever their ties to WMLS and form the Center for Public Representation, a public interest law firm dedicated to serving people with disabilities.
1982 Western New England College Law School asks the Center to assume responsibility for the administration of its Disability Law Clinic. For the next 17 years WNEC law students, working under the supervision of CPR attorneys, will represent clients at Northampton State Hospital, Belchertown State School, Monson Developmental Center and in the community. The clinic is a model for similar clinics at other law schools, including one at Harvard Law School, also supervised by CPR attorneys.
1982-1990 The Center is actively engaged in enforcing the implementation of the Brewster Consent Decree, delayed at times by state budget problems and administrative intransigence. Despite the delays, hundreds of class members are moved to community-based programs.
1983 The Rutgers Law Journal publishes an influential article by CPR staff advocating for the establishment of standards to measure the effectiveness of legal advocacy for people with mental disabilities. The article will become the basis for standards later adopted by the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems.
1983 CPR attorneys successfully appeal a civil commitment case, Hashimi v. Kalil, and establish the right of hospitalized individuals to have their commitment hearings held within statutory time frames, ending years of abuse and denial of due process.
1985 A CPR lawyer is among the primary witnesses before a Senate Committee investigating abuse and neglect in mental health facilities and programs. CPR strongly supports a bill to establish a national network of Protection and Advocacy agencies for people with psychiatric disabilities.
1986 CPR, in a coalition with several legal services agencies and the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee is awarded the first Massachusetts contract for a protection and advocacy program for people with mental illness (PAIMI). CPR and its colleagues open offices at nearly every state hospital.
1986 The Center joins together with CLRD to successfully advocate for legislation creating the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to investigate allegations of abuse of individuals with disabilities. CPR attorneys play a key role in the establishment of the new agency, including chairing its advisory committee.
1987 Steven J. Schwartz and Cathy E. Costanzo publish a critical analysis of outpatient commitment in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. This frequently cited article becomes an important tool for opponents of outpatient commitment.
1989 - 2000 The Center files civil rights damages and wrongful death cases on behalf of the families of patients with mental disabilities who died in a state facilities. Most of the cases are settled for substantial damages.
1990 CPR and Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services file Dottin v. Dukakis, a suit alleging that residents of Metropolitan State Hospital are being denied their rights to live in less restrictive community alternatives. The case is settled when the Department of Mental Health decides to close the hospital and move most of its residents to the community.
1991 The Center’s PAIMI program establishes an office at Bridgewater State Hospital, a high security forensic facility, run by the Department of Corrections after successfully negotiating access for its attorneys to the Hospital.. The settlement represents perhaps the most comprehensive access for a P&A to any prison in the nation.
1992 The first edition of Guardianship and Conservatorship in Massachusetts by CPR attorney Robert D. Fleischner and John H. Cross is published by Butterworth. The book, which later includes material by Jianne S.J. Elder, quickly becomes the standard text for lawyers and judges on guardianship matters. Pocket part updates are published annually and a second edition, published by Lexis, appears in 2001.
1993 Northampton State Hospital closes and the federal court, leaving in place a permanent injunction, disengages from the Brewster case.
1995 - 1997 The Center participates as an amicus in several cases establishing the rights of P&A agencies to have access to facilities that house people with disabilities and to client records.
1997 The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) presents its first Special Commendation Award to CPR’s PAIMI program for outstanding legal service to people with disabilities.
1997 After a ten year legislative campaign, CPR, MHLAC, CLRD and consumer groups are successful in their efforts to update the state mental health code with a new bill of rights for people in mental health facilities.
1998 In settlement of a class action brought by CPR and other advocates, including Foley Hoag, Massachusetts agrees to provide community placement to 1100 people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities who live unnecessarily in nursing facilities. Rolland v. Swift.
2000 After a long legislative campaign, CPR, MHLAC, CLRD and others are finally successful in securing the passage of the first significant reform to the state’s civil commitment law in over twenty years. The amendments significantly shorten the length of time a person can be held involuntarily without a court hearing.
2000 CPR coordinates the submission of seven amicus briefs from national organizations in the Olmstead case, the Supreme Court’s critical decision that the ADA requires states to provide services to people with disabilities in integrated settings.
2001 CPR, MHLAC and Hale and Dorr file Rosie D. v. Swift, a class action on behalf of 3000 children with serious emotional disturbances seeking intensive home-based services so as to avoid unnecessary hospitalization.
2001 CPR attorney Susan Stefan’s book Hollow Promises is published by the American Psychological Association. This volume follows her highly acclaimed Unequal Rights, published a year earlier. Both books analyze the impact of the ADA on people with psychiatric disabilities.