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


Melissa McRoy Shearer, Director

910 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

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

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, two full time attorneys, two social workers, three caseworkers, and two 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. Referrals are also made by judges, attorneys, pre-trial services or mental health advocacy groups.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be a Travis County case;
  • Must be a misdemeanor;
  • Client must be defined as indigent according to the county-standard definition;
  • Must have at least one major priority population diagnosis including:
    • schizophrenia,
    • bi-polar disorder,
    • major depression and/or schizoaffective disorder
  • Must NOT have a Travis County felony or felony probation pending.

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


Mental Health Public Defender staff:
(Standing left to right) Laura Mercado, Office Specialist; Marilyn Kell, Case Worker; Cathy Jonse, Administrative Associate; Karen Hunt, Case Worker; Anthony Macias, Case Worker; Becca Hyatt, LMSW, Social Worker
(Sitting left to right) Sam Farina-Henry, JD, Attorney; Melissa McRoy Shearer, JD, LBSW, Director; Amanda Austin, JD, Attorney; Stephanie Doyle, LMSW, Case Management Coordinator