HLA’s Children’s Mental Health Access Project fights to defeat pernicious barriers to mental health and substance use treatment for children. Our attorneys provide vigorous representation to families with children denied access to needed services. We counsel them on their options and legal rights and advocate on their behalf within the mental health and legal systems. HLA also empowers families and advocates through trainings and publications describing how to navigate the rough terrain of our children’s mental health system. Another major aspect of our work is advocating for policy reforms to make the system more responsive to families' needs. Under our Children’s Mental Health Access Project are three distinct initiatives. 

Mental Health Access Project For Kids (MHAP 4 Kids)

Many children in, or at risk of entering, our juvenile justice system end up there because of unmet mental health needs. HLA’s Mental Health Advocacy Program for Kids (MHAP for Kids) has a proven track record of significantly improving the lives of these children and their families while reducing unnecessary costs for the state. A 22-month independent study of MHAP for Kids found that the program:

 

  • Significantly improved children’s overall mental health
  • Significantly reduced children’s difficulties and their impact on their lives
  • Significantly reduced parental stress
  • Significantly improved school attendance
  • Significantly decreased the need for emergency mental health care
  • Significantly reduced the need for psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Significantly reduced barriers to appropriate mental health care
  • Reduced the need for residential mental health treatment
  • Reduced the need for stays in emergency shelters
  • Diverted children from court-ordered secure detention to treatment

MHAP for Kids now serves children as an embedded service of Family Resource Centers in Lowell and Lynn. HLA seeks to expand the reach of MHAP for Kids statewide.

MHAP for Kids is generously supported by grants from The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower FoundationThe Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts FoundationThe C.F. Adams TrustThe Theodore Edson Parker Foundation and The Massachusetts Bar Foundation. Generous support for this work has also been provided by Boston Children’s Hospital and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and many more corporate and individual sponsors. 

For FAQ about MHAP for Kids, click here.

Mental Health Parity for Children

HLA’s Mental Health and Substance Parity Initiative has a particular focus on rooting out discriminatory health insurance practices impacting children with behavioral health challenges. Securing insurance coverage for children’s mental health and substance use services poses unique challenges because children use different behavioral health services than adults. HLA’s Children’s Mental Health Access Project and our Parity Initiative combine to help children unfairly denied insurance coverage for mental health and addiction services. We are grateful for the Nord Family Foundation’s and Boston Children’s Hospital’s support of this program.

Over the past two years, HLA opened more than 50 new cases involving children denied insurance coverage for behavioral health services. One case involved twin five-year-old boys with autism spectrum disorders. Their condition makes it hard for them to communicate and interact with others so their doctors recommended applied behavior analysis (ABA) to address their challenges. Unfortunately, the family’s health plan had an extra requirement for coverage of this service – the boys’ parents had to participate in the boys’ 20 hours per week of ABA therapy. The boys’ parents both work and simply could not participate in the therapy so their health insurer denied coverage. HLA successfully appealed the denial by showing that parental participation in ABA therapy is not generally accepted medical practice. Not only did HLA help the boys in this case get the care they needed, the health insurer involved voluntarily dropped its policy of requiring parental participation in ABA therapy.  

Children's Mental Health Campaign

HLA is a founding and executive committee member of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, a statewide coalition of families, providers, advocates and educators dedicated to advancing public policies that improve behavioral health care for children. The Campaign’s recent highlights included successful advocacy for a $3.1 million state appropriation for a cutting-edge program to provide consultations with mental health clinicians for children’s primary care providers and $200,000 in state funding for a pilot program to enable school systems to develop an action plan to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. HLA’s fellow executive committee members on the Campaign are Boston Children’s Hospital, Health Care For All, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Parent Professional Advocacy League. The Campaign has more than 130 supporting organizations.