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“Something meaningful out of tragedy” - Senate Passes Kids Mental Health Bill

“Something meaningful out of tragedy” - Senate Passes Kids Mental Health Bill

July 15, 2008

Mary Ann Tufts speaking to Sen. President Murray and Speaker Dimasi"I stand here today to beg you to help make [this bill] a reality, for my baby, for the children who suffer now, and for the ones who follow," Mary Ann Tufts said. "Our children continue to be at risk, require systems change, and the time is now."

Last May, Mary Ann came to the State House with her daughter Yolanda. Mary Ann was planning to testify in support of An Act Relative To Children’s Mental Health. Although Yolanda did not plan to speak, she was urged to testify by Senator Steven Tolman. Speaking from the heart and without notes, Yolanda shared her personal story as an adolescent living with mental illness.

Tragically, as a result of what her mother describes as an impulse that no one expected and no one can understand, Yolanda took her own life this past January.

Yesterday in the Senate Reading Room, Mary Ann participated in a press conference along with Senate President Murray, Speaker DiMasi, Senator Tolman, and Representative Ruth Balser. Before a standing room only room, Mary Ann shared her hope that her daughter’s death would result in meaningful change and reform of the children’s mental health system in Massachusetts – a system that fails to provide needed services to more than 100,000 young people living with mental illness.

Today, the Senate took a major step toward making Mary Ann’s hope a reality by unanimously passing An Act Relative To Children’s Mental Health.

"I have witnessed the devastating consequences of mental illness for families in my own district," Senate President Therese Murray said yesterday at the press conference. "We can all be proud of this bill. We owe this to our children, and all the loving families who unfortunately are sometimes shortchanged by the current system. It doesn't have to be that way."

With Senate passage, the legislation moves on to the House, where it enjoys the support of 91 House members. Speaker DiMasi appeared to indicate support for the legislation during the media event when he said, “With the passage of this bill, our law will serve to cover the physical and psychological well-being of all of our residents. Children and adults suffering depression and mental illness need treatment, because in so many cases treatment is the key to preventing physical harm or suicide.”

The House needs to act quickly on this bill, not only because there are only 16 days left in the legislative session, but because there are thousands of children waiting for care.

The time is NOW.
Matt Noyes