Caitlin Machell Pevey

  • Hosted by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location Dallas, Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Housing/Homelessness
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Caitlin works toward housing stability and income maintenance for persons with serious mental illness in Dallas County through direct representation, community partnerships, and education.

Adults with serious mental illness are at high risk for homelessness, institutionalization, and incarceration. In Texas, up to one million adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness; 36,000 of those individuals live in poverty and cycle between jails, emergency rooms, crisis services, hospitals, and other short-term crisis interventions. Access to civil legal aid is critical in breaking this cycle and promoting independence, self-determination, and choice. Effectively serving people with serious mental illness requires a specialized and multidisciplinary approach with a strong emphasis on the whole person.

Caitlin has extensive experience in disability rights, with a specific focus on psychiatric disabilities. She aims to increase self-determination and autonomy through thoughtful, accessible representation. As a person with lived experience, she is passionate about providing person-centered legal services.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Caitlin has:

  • Engaged in 26 full representation cases and 158 advice or brief service cases for adults with mental health needs in Dallas County
  • Established relationships with the mental health community in Dallas and created a new referral pathway for applicants with difficulty navigating traditional legal aid systems
  • Presented three Know Your Rights trainings on advance directives and support documents, reaching 120 members of the client community
  • Conducted 18 presentations to providers and advocates on how to serve clients with mental illness and to share information on the work of the project
  • Presented two CLE trainings to attorneys in Texas on reaching clients with mental illness

Next Steps

In the next year, Caitlin plans to:

  • Continue serving clients in housing and benefits cases
  • Expand outreach program and continue to present to both community providers and the client community
  • Host pro bono clinics for Psychiatric Advance Directives and Supported Decision-Making Agreements
  • Conduct a legal needs survey of the mental health community in Dallas County
  • Create additional tools for attorneys working with clients with mental illness and pro se materials for applicants in the areas of housing and benefits

I am drawn to work with this population not simply due to my own experiences, but because I am morally compelled to intervene in a system where mental illness causes, perpetuates and arises from poverty and bias. Race and socioeconomic status should not dictate whether a person with serious mental illness has access to the tools of recovery.

Caitlin Machell /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Meet Other Fellows Like Caitlin

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Andrew Neuhauser

Host: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation

Sara Simon Tompkins

Host: National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Sponsor: Individual Donors, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Vallen Solomon

Host: King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project

Sponsor: Costco Wholesale, The Raikes Foundation

Current Fellow

Michael Deemer

Host: Ohio State Legal Services Association

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation