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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’s project worked 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

During the two-year Fellowship, Caitlin:

  • Served over 300 people in a combination of advice, brief service, and full representation cases
  • Established relationships with the mental health community in Dallas, including the creation of a new referral pathway for applicants with difficulty navigating traditional legal aid systems
  • Conducted 18 presentations to over 400 providers and advocates on how to serve clients with mental illness, which resulted in numerous client referrals
  • Presented five Know Your Rights trainings on advance directives and support documents, including psychiatric advance directives and supported decision making agreements
  • Presented CLE trainings to attorneys in Texas on reaching clients with mental illness
  • Created comprehensive toolkit for attorneys to use when working with clients with mental illness

Next Steps

Caitlin provided a comprehensive toolkit and streamlined referral system to facilitate continued service to this high-need population. Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas will continue to prioritize serving clients with serious mental illness throughout the entire service area.

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

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