A Different Kind of Law - Holistic Justice for the Mentally Ill


Program Description

The Travis County Mental Health Public Defender (MHPD) Office began in April 2007 to serve the needs of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Our staff includes a director, three full time attorneys, four social workers, three caseworkers, and three support staff.

The social and case workers are also available to assist private court appointed attorneys. Referrals are made for a variety of social services. Follow-up case management services are also provided.

Referral Procedures

Cases are primarily referred to the MHPD through Travis County Court Administration.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Charges: Class A/B misdemeanor, state jail or 3rd degree felony
  • Indigent: Qualifies for court appointed counsel under the Travis County Indigent Defense Plan
  • Experiencing significant challenges due to mental health, intellectual, or developmental disabilities

The Travis County Mental Health Public Defender office is operated in connection with Travis County Justice Planning.


Melissa McRoy Shearer, Director

1010 Lavaca St
4th floor
Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 854-3030
Fax: (512) 854-3037

Legal Team

  • Melissa McRoy Shearer - JD, LBSW, Director
  • Sam Woodburn-Henry - JD, Attorney
  • Nicole Hancock - JD, Attorney
  • Kate Pumarejo - JD, Attorney

Social Services Management Team

  • Valerie Whiting - LCSW, Social Services Manager
  • Becca Hyatt - LMSW, Social Worker
  • Krista Hill - LMSW, Social Worker
  • Marilyn Kyere - LMSW, Social Worker
  • Anthony Macias - Case Worker
  • Karen Hunt - Case Worker
  • Randy Webster - Case Worker

Admin Team

  • Antonia Blasini - Adminstrative Associate
  • Laura Mercado - Legal Secretary
  • Larissa Wolcott - Administrative Assistant