Book by Baron Miller
Reviewed by Katie Danielson
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, in 2018 47.6 million U.S. adults experienced mental illness, 9.2 million U.S. adults experiencing mental illness had co-occurring substance abuse issues. As many as 8.4 million U.S. adults provided care for people experiencing mental illness at an average rate of thirty-two unpaid hours per week. Thirty-seven percent of incarcerated adults in the U.S. have a mental health diagnosis, 70.4 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system are experiencing mental illness. And 20.1 percent of Americans experiencing homelessness are experiencing mental illness.
The need for relevant resources is great, and specifically a resource geared toward legal professionals addressing the interrelated legal issues that arise is essential.
Laws We Need to Know. Understanding Rules and Programs for Persons with Mental Illness by Baron Miller, J.D. is a comprehensive guide to the various laws and legal issues affecting persons suffering from severe mental illness (consumers). It is written for an expansive audience ranging from individuals caring and assisting consumers (supporters), social workers, nurses, doctors, as well as lawyers. It also seeks to empower consumers able enough to advocate for themselves. Miller brings decades of experience as an attorney as well as his personal experience as the parent of an adult experiencing schizophrenia to the subject in a comprehensive as well as compassionate and realistic manner.
Consisting of thirteen chapters, the book covers such topics as hospitalization, interaction with the criminal justice system, interactions with authorities and courts, government programs and benefits, estate planning and other money matters, power of attorney, and conservatorship. Many of the topics in the book are interrelated in ways that may not be initially apparent as a supporter or legal professional tries to assist a consumer contending legal problems arising from mental illness.
For example, as many consumers are dependent on government assistance in some form, the book addresses such issues as: what if the consumer receives a windfall in the form of an inheritance or legal settlement? Are public benefits affected by incarceration or hospitalization? Is there a way to structure estate planning while protecting the long-term financial stability and care of a consumer once a supporter is no longer able to care for her? The book considers the many possibilities and offers practical strategies to address a whole host of scenarios.
The author approaches this material as an expert and a shareholder and it shows in the compassion and realistic tone of the book. Miller uses language that is accessible to laypeople, while maintaining the legal rigor needed to make it a useful reference book for the legal professional. All references to the law are footnoted with citation and provided in a legal context.
An essential volume in the library of a law firm, social services organization, or really anyone in the position to provide information or support to a consumer, the book is a comprehensive guide accessible to a wide audience. Miller quotes his father, “Lawyers don’t necessarily know more law than anyone else, but we do know where to look it up.” With this book, he has provided us with a tool to do just that.
About the Author:
Katie Danielson is the Senior Supervising Attorney at the Justice & Diversity Center’s Homeless Advocacy Project.
The book, Laws We Need to Know. Understanding Rules and Programs for Persons with Mental Illness by Baron Miller, can be purchased in print or digital form from online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or local stores, or it can be purchased in print from Baron Miller’s website at www.baronmillerlaw.com, where special pricing is available as needed.