Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates
Michael L. Perlin & Heather Ellis Cucolo


Education and Training across Disciplines and across the World

How can we help make our expertise, your expertise?

Online Distance Learning

We have perfected the online education experience and can help you reach potential students and clients locally and worldwide through distance learning. Our proven seminars have allowed law schools, graduate schools and other companies to tap into an ever-growing demand to provide specialized training to professionals who strive to better understand and serve persons with a mental disability in their practice. By focusing on cutting edge areas of specialization, we provide educational benefits for not only attorneys, but for psychologists, psychiatrists, healthcare workers, criminal justice scholars, social workers, judges and others.  Our services include:

  • Licensing and integration of our proven courses into your existent distance learning curriculum or program;
  • Customized online distance learning courses or programs to meet your specific needs;
  • Distance learning hosting, technical assistance and start-up guides to assist you in developing a distance learning curriculum or program.

Training and Education Opportunities

As premiere experts in the field of mental disability law and policy as it applies to other disciplines of law and practice, our team will offer institutional and on-the-job training. Training can:

  • Instruct employees on how to ethically and efficiently handle disability issues in the workplace;
  • Increase the ethical and competent representation of persons with a disability
  • Provide you with the necessary information and educational tools to expand and command your mission in furthering disability rights advocacy;
  • Design and offer specialized seminars for continuing education credit (both CE and CLE possibilities).

Areas of Expertise

All of the below areas of practice can be offered as online or in-house educational training, one-on-one consultation, or small group instruction.

Mental disability law

Understanding mental disability law (MDL) is the gateway to excelling in all areas of civil and criminal practice. One of the training/course opportunities that we offer is a comprehensive overview of MDL that provides the basic doctrines fundamental to the understanding of persons with a mental disability. Participants will gain access to the civil and constitutional bases of mental disability law in such areas as civil commitment; institutional rights (with specific focus on the right to refuse treatment); and deinstitutionalization, aftercare; federal statutory rights (with specific focus on the Americans with Disabilities Act); and most importantly, why judges and fact finders decide mental disability law cases the way they do, to facilitate our predictions of future trends and outcomes. Participants will also explore the role of mental disability in the criminal trial process, including criminal incompetencies; insanity defense; sexually violent predator laws; federal sentencing guidelines; and the death penalty.  

Sex Offenders

Training will review contemporary public policy regarding sexually coercive behavior. A major focus will be the aggressive legislative approaches to sexual violence developed in the United States over the past 15 years. We will examine and evaluate these controversial legal approaches, as well as alternative approaches to the societal effort to address sexual violence. The course will include an examination of the current state of social science research into sexual violence, including etiology, classification, treatment, supervision, recidivism, and risk assessment. Our examination of legislative approaches to sexual violence will seek an understanding of the operation of these laws (including international sanctions: passport registration and International Megan's Law), the constitutional litigation challenging them, the legal issues currently in controversy, and an attempt to assess their efficacy as part of a system for addressing sexual violence in society. The course will address issues at a variety of levels of abstraction, examining the morality of the laws, their implications for public policy and the fight against sexual violence, as well as the practical skills and knowledge necessary for lawyers and other professionals to operate effectively


Juvenile and family law

The complicated realm of family law is a difficult area to navigate on your own. We have developed specialized training to cover the full range of legal and social issues related to custody (including issues specifically related to children with special needs), adoption, marriage dissolution, foster care, domestic abuse and guardianship. Participants will also have the opportunity to examine the special issues related to persons with mental disabilities, such as: juvenile commitments to psychiatric institutions (and treatment of juveniles in such facilities); competency; criminal trials of juveniles with mental disabilities; and the role of problem-solving courts. 

mental health in jails and prisons

This training offers participants a comprehensive overview of how mental disability is handled within correctional settings (jails & prisons). Topics include the historical development of the constitutional right to correctional health and mental health care, issues involving staffing, transfer, record keeping, suicide prevention, the significance of professional standards, the relationship between correctional mental health care and community systems of care, monitoring, informed consent, risk assessment, and privatization of services. 

Health Law

Health law is an ever-evolving area that combines legislative, administrative and practice-related issues in a variety of settings in and out of a hospital or other  institution. Participants in this training/course will get a comprehensive overview of the history of hospitals and institutionalization; federal statutes; HIPAA compliance; tort and liability actions against and on behalf of doctors, administrators and hospitals; abortion and reproduction rights; death and dying rights; and legal issues surrounding cutting edge medical advancements and procedures.

Specialized Training for experts and other professionals

We will design a specialized training or course just for your specific needs. Training can follow the roadmap of any of the Mental Disability Law topics but will be tailored to your specific profession. Available areas include: training for psychologists as experts in court- best practices for testimony and jury trials; expert training for mitigation consultants in criminal and death penalty cases; specialized training for healthcare administrators, teachers, landlord/tenant litigation, prison officials, social workers and disability rights advocates.

Mental Illness, dangerousness,police power and risk assessment

The relationship between mental illness, dangerous behavior and the police power, is a major area of contention in today's media and the courtroom. Training will focus on the ability of mental health professionals to predict dangerousness, and the significance of the use of risk assessment instruments in the legal system. Participants will discover how these relationships and concepts play out” in a variety of settings, including involuntary civil commitments, right to refuse treatment, insanity defense acquittee retention hearings, sex offender status hearings, sentencing cases, death penalty “future dangerousness” inquiries, death penalty mitigation hearings, and Tarasoff (duty to protect) cases.

forensic reports, the role of experts and forensic ethics

Specifically designed for court experts and litigation-focused attorneys, this training will uncover strategies of advising, creating and using pre-trial and trial forensic expert reports. Participants will become familiar with the full range of issues involving forensic experts and the mental disability law system, including  an analysis of the ethical issues that are posed when experts must interact with the legal system. Focus will be on: the rights of persons facing institutionalization; those currently institutionalized; those within the criminal trial process; in the civil trial process; and in the family law process. Therapeutic jurisprudence implications will be also be explored, as will a consideration of the varying ethical codes that apply to the different mental health professions.

advocacy for veterans and navigating veterans courts

This training will focus on a magnitude of legal and societal issues that veterans are facing and offer solutions on how to effectively advocate for this population. Pertinent areas of exploration include: access to healthcare; access to mental health services; housing rights in the community; federal legislative approaches; stigma; civil rights in the community; and a full understanding of the medical and legal implications of being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- specifically how PTSD has been dealt with in the courts, in psychiatric evaluations, and in access to community services. 

Mental Disability and criminal law

This training or course will explore in depth the relationship between mental disability and the criminal trial process. Topics to be discussed will include all aspects of the criminal incompetency status (including trial, plea, counsel waiver and other pre-trial, trial and post-trial stages); the insanity defense; institutionalization and release policies that govern the cases of persons found permanently incompetent to stand trial and those found not guilty by reason of insanity; the right of forensic patients to refuse antipsychotic medications; the role of mental disability evidence in other aspects of criminal trial and pre-trial proceedings (including confessions and privilege against self-incrimination matters); sentencing, the death penalty (including issues involving mitigation, predictions of future dangerousness, executability of persons with mental retardation, and competency to be executed); and questions as to the effectiveness of counsel in cases involving mentally disabled defendants.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Law policy and practice

A course or training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) explores the legal, policy, and practical implications of the ADA and ADAA (amendments), as it applies to people with both physical and mental disabilities. The course/training will cover the wide range of disability-based discrimination that the ADA addresses, including questions of discrimination, access to services, access to the judicial system, institutional rights, and community rights. Focus will be on Title I and Title II and participants will study the contextualization of the ADA and other federal statutory rights (such as the Fair Housing Act (FHA)); definitions of "disability"; issues involving employment discrimination; discrimination in public accommodations and professional licensing; housing discrimination; discrimination in public services; institutional segregation as discrimination; the ADA and the criminal justice system; and sovereign immunity and access to courts.

international human rights and mental disability law

Participants will examine the relationship between constitutional mental disability law and international human rights law, primarily as that relationship deals with questions of legislative drafting, legal representation, institutional treatment, community care, and forensic mental health systems. Training will cover a comparison of civil and common law systems, an overview of international human rights law, an overview of regional human rights tribunals, an overview of US constitutional mental disability law, the role of "sanism" and "pretextuality" in understanding developments in this area, mental disability law in an international human rights context, comparative mental disability law, the use of institutional psychiatry as a means of suppressing political dissension, the "universal factors" in this area of law, and the globalization of disability law. The focus will be on both American law and on international human rights norms (e.g., the UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness), and the developing body of case law in the Inter-American and European Courts and Commissions on Human Rights.