Governor Patrick marks passage of children's mental healthcare bill with State House ceremony
Advocates say they are ready to work with the administration in ensuring law's "full and effective implementation"
September 25, 2008
Surrounded by scores of parents and families, child and mental health advocates and mental health care providers on the State House's Grand Staircase, Governor Deval Patrick ceremoniously signed An Act Relative to Children's Mental Health on September 24, 2008.
An Act Relative to Children's Mental Health, often referred to as "Yolanda's Law," was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick on August 21, 2008. It will strengthen the system that delivers care and services that directly benefit children with mental health needs and their families.
"Massachusetts has been a leader in expanding health insurance for all of its citizens and now we are focused on meeting the needs of every child," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This law continues our commitment to providing every child with access to mental health care with the same certainty and dedication that we provide medical care."
Also present at the singing ceremony were Senate President Therese Murray; Speaker of the House of Representatives Salvatore DiMasi; Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby; Representative Ruth Balser, who was the chief House sponsor of the bill; Senator Steven Tolman, chief Senate sponsor of the bill; Sandra Fenwick, chief operating officer of Children's Hospital Boston; Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; and the family of Yolanda Torres for whom the legislation is dedicated.
The law will improve the systems of care for children with mental health needs by enabling school personnel to receive mental health consultation and guidance; promoting behavioral health screening for children during visits to their doctors; providing behavioral health consultations for very young children in early education and preschool settings; and creating processes to move children with mental health needs who are ready for discharge from acute care facilities to more appropriate community settings.
The legislation passed overwhelmingly in both the state Senate and House of Representatives, with more than 125 legislators voting in support. "We are thankful for the support of so many legislators," said Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "This bill provides access to critical services for children and parents throughout the state who are struggling with the challenges of mental illness."
In addition, more than 120 organizations, including health care providers, advocates, educators and families, worked for passage of the bill.
"This law recognizes that children and families are deeply impacted by mental health problems and that many issues facing children, such as poor academic performance, have their roots in behavioral and emotional difficulties," said Sandra Fenwick, chief operating officer of Children's Hospital Boston, which has been a leader in the Children's Mental Health Campaign.
"But our work is not done," Fenwick continued. "Full and effective implementation of all provisions is vitally important. We pledge to Governor Patrick and Secretary Bigby our complete support and commitment to making this legislation work for the children and families who face mental health needs every day."
The signing ceremony at the State House was followed by a reception at the Social Law Library in the John Adams Courthouse to celebrate the passage of the bill and to recognize families and supporters.
According to a report by Children's Hospital Boston and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of the more than 140,000 young people under age 18 who need mental health services each year, more than 100,000 do not receive them. The consequences of not receiving needed treatment can be devastating for children suffering from mental illness and their families. Suicide remains the third leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24. Tragically, 90% of children who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental disorder at the time of their death. Nearly 50% of children with a mental disorder drop out of school.
Children's Hospital Boston
Health Care For All
With over 120 committed organizations, the Children's Mental Health Campaign includes health care providers, advocates, families, educators and consumers from across the Commonwealth. They have joined together to reform the mental health care system for children - a system that is broken and seriously flawed. The campaign supports reform that removes the barriers that children & families face when seeking treatment by making it easier for families to access care from any point in the system. For more information about the Children's Mental Health Campaign visit: www.childrensmentalhealthcampaign.org.
Children's Hospital Boston is one of the nation's premier pediatric medical centers. Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, today it is a 397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, the largest provider of health care to the children of Massachusetts, and home to the world's leading pediatric research enterprise. For more information about Children's, visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
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