Saying that “understanding our mental health system is a challenge, and navigating it can at times prove frustrating for parents of children with mental health issues,” the Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced the publication of the third edition of the Parents’ How-To Guide to Children’s Mental Health Services in Massachusetts.
“This Guide reflects the legal talent, experience and public-spiritedness of our Health Law Section,” said BBA President Lisa Goodheart. “Kudos to Michael Blau, the Guide’s Editor-in-Chief, and also to our wonderful partner in this effort, Children’s Hospital Boston.”
This newest edition expands the Guide to address developmental and autism spectrum disorders, broadens the discussion of school-based and special education programs, and adds many new references to the Resource List at the end of the Guide. This edition also updates the Guide to incorporate recent developments which include:
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 – our national health reform legislation – which, among other things, extends health insurance coverage to children through age 26.
- New coordination of care initiatives, such as Unified Planning Teams, that bridge programs and Departments within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), and the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative, which establishes a new coordinated system of community-based mental health services.
- New anti-bullying legislation that protects children who may be suffering from mental illness from being bullied at school.
- New federal behavioral health parity protections.
- New programs, and changes to existing programs, offered by various state agencies within EOHHS, as well as by the Commonwealth’s education and correctional Departments.
The genesis of the Children’s Mental Health Guide goes back to 2001, when the BBA Health Law Section, became concerned about (1) reports that children and adolescents were being forced to wait in emergency rooms and hospitals without mental health services because appropriate treatment facilities were full, and (2) reports that families with children in need of mental health services were facing widespread problems of access to services, funding for services, coordination of services and responsibility for care.
Working with a broad coalition of state and private players in the mental health arena, the BBA Health Law Section convened a summit that led to a renewed focus on helping parents navigate the mental health system to obtain the services they need for their children. The first Guide was published in 2004, and last updated in 2009.