Health Law Advocates, Inc.
30 Winter Street, Suite 1004
Boston, MA 02108
Many children living in Massachusetts and their families confront steep barriers to timely access to mental health care. That is why HLA launched its Children’s Mental Health Access Project in 2006. This project, a ten-year commitment, reached its midway point and achieved some of its most important gains in 2011. Over the course of the year, HLA lawyers expanded access to mental health services to children in lower income Massachusetts families through a range of ventures that leverage our expertise in the legal and child mental health systems.
HLA targeted the needs of some of the most vulnerable children--those with unmet mental health needs involved in juvenile court. It was the seventh year of our Mental Health Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Project in which HLA attorneys are appointed by juvenile court justices in select courthouses to advocate for the best interests of court-involved children lacking access to necessary mental health care. HLA attorneys accepted 26 GAL appointments from juvenile court justices in Worcester (16), Boston (6) and Lowell (4), bringing our total number of GAL appointments over seven years to 237.
Rates of major mental illness run high among children in the juvenile justice system, and many of these children do not receive appropriate services. As GAL, HLA attorneys help iengedentify the mental health needs of the child and then advocate for timely access to appropriate and medically necessary services. For many of these children, once they receive necessary treatment, the risk of future juvenile court involvement declines measurably.
HLA’s Mental Health GAL Project was funded by the John W. Alden Trust, the Jesse B. Cox Charitable Trust Fund and The Klarman Family Foundation.
Late in 2011, HLA made final preparations for launching its new three-year Juvenile Court Mental Health Advocacy Project (J-MHAP) in early 2012. Building on the success of the Mental Health GAL Project, J-MHAP will develop and implement a pilot program to integrate a sustainable mental health advocacy component within the juvenile court structure. The pilot will be designed to be replicated statewide and potentially nationwide.
Funders for J-MHAP are the C.F. Adams Trust, the John W. Alden Trust, the Eastern Bank Foundation, the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation, the Klarman Family Foundation, the Ludcke Foundation, and the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.
We helped lead a statewide coalition advocating for public policies to improve children’s mental health as a member of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign’s Executive Committee along with Health Care For All, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Children’s Hospital Boston and the Parent Professional Advocacy League. In their activities with the Campaign, HLA attorneys drafted legislative proposals on behalf of the Campaign to improve insurance coverage for and the delivery of children’s mental health services. Part of improving care delivery is coordinating mental health services between multiple state child-serving agencies. We coordinated the drafting of model regulations implementing the Interagency Review Teams, now called the Unified Planning Teams (UPTs), to help coordinate state agency services for children with complex needs. (For more information about UPTs, please download our fact sheet.) HLA also helped organize the Campaign’s Children’s Mental Health Summit attended by nearly 200 leaders who charted a course for advocacy over the next several years.
HLA and Children’s Hospital Boston (CHB) continued to partner to address mental health care access issues impacting CHB patients and those receiving care elsewhere. As collaborators, HLA and CHB seek to identify solutions to access barriers that will not only benefit children receiving mental health care at CHB but in all clinical settings. HLA and CHB concluded a two-year partnership in early 2011 that helped reduce the time children spend in the hospital inpatient psychiatry units while awaiting discharge to a more appropriate level of care. In the Fall of 2012, we refocused our partnership with CHB to address barriers to mental health care created when health insurers deny coverage for necessary services.
HLA’s Children’s Mental Health Access Project has made significant headway in the fight to overcome barriers to mental health care for children, especially the most vulnerable, in Massachusetts. With the support and collaboration of so many, we are well positioned to continue to use legal advocacy to help lead the movement to improve children’s mental health care in Massachusetts. As part of its Children’s Mental Health initiative, HLA is proud to partner with The Boston Bar Association, Children’s Hospital, and Greater Boston Legal Services in developing The Parents’ How-To Guide to Children’s Mental Health Services in Massachusetts. If you are a parent or guardian and have concerns about the mental health status of a child in your care, the third edition of the Guide is for you.
HLA’s Children’s Mental Health Access Project has made significant headway in the fight to overcome barriers to mental health care for children, especially the most vulnerable, in Massachusetts. With the support and collaboration of so many, we are well positioned to continue to use legal advocacy to help lead the movement to improve children’s mental health care in Massachusetts.