Qualifications & Background

Since the early 1990s, attorney Mary Zdanowicz has been an advocate for severely mentally ill individuals and their families who face numerous barriers when trying to get treatment for a loved one. As a court-appointed legal guardian for two siblings with schizophrenia, she understands the implications of diminished capacity and the need for effective advocates for individuals lacking the capacity to make informed decisions about housing, medical care and daily living.  Her personal experience helped develop her expertise and insights about assisting disabled individuals and their families. She is a member in good standing of the Bar in Massachusetts, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. In 1998, she left private practice to become the Executive Director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to treatment for individuals with severe mental illness. She has experience securing quality medical treatment and community services for disabled individuals, recognizing and preventing abuse in institutional settings (hospitals and jails) and other related legal matters. Over the years, she has been appointed to governmental advisory bodies by the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, the New York Commissioner of Mental Health, a prominent New Jersey State Senator, and the Arlington County Community Services Board in Virginia.

View Full Background in Mental Illness Policy & Practice

Invest in reopening psychiatric hospitals
Cape Cod Times October 16, 2015
In a 2005 study of state psychiatric bed shortages, Massachusetts rated in the “severe bed shortage” category. Since then, 25 percent of beds have closed and Massachusetts now has a “critical bed shortage.”

Keeping the Mentally Ill Out of Jail: Sheriffs as Litigants
8 Alb. Govt. L. Rev. 536 (2015)
The purpose of this paper is to develop a litigation strategy for Sheriffs to require state mental health agencies to provide services that will help prevent people with serious mental illnesses from returning to jail. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled individuals who are at risk of institutionalization. This includes the mentally ill who are at risk of repeated incarceration in jails. They need an advocate to protect their rights under the ADA. Sheriffs and mentally ill inmates share a mutual interest in preventing the endless cycle of incarceration, which makes Sheriffs good candidates to take on the task. As third party litigants, Sheriffs could sue states on behalf of mentally ill inmates to ensure that the inmates receive the services and treatment that are needed to prevent them from returning to jail.