A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Children’s Mental Health Forums Come to the Big City

Children’s Mental Health Forums Come to the Big City

June 4, 2009

After 14 regional forums from Pittsfield to Hyannis, the Children’s Mental Health Campaign participated in a forum in Boston last night. Hosted by the Boston Public Health Commission, the forum took place at Boston English High School in Jamaica Plain.

The evening agenda brought out new constituencies, especially young people. More than 20 were in attendance – many of who shared their personal stories and asked questions of the panels.

Particularly timely were the comments of Marilyn Morrissey, a school nurse in Boston. One of the major shortcomings in the system of care for children with mental health needs is the lack of communication among the various adults in the child’s life, she said. This is precisely the issue that the Coordination of Care legislation, which was heard by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee last week, aims to address.

Over the past year, the children’s mental health forums have provided important insights into local community needs. To be sure, there are many issues that are consistent across the state – stigma around mental illness, lack of capacity in schools to address mental health needs, and provider shortages, to name a few.

Still, the local community needs of Boston are quite different from those of Amherst. As the Campaign moves forward on implementation, the specific local needs will become even more important. Reform of the Massachusetts children’s mental health system cannot be a one-size-fits-all process.

The forum at Boston English High is only the first one for Boston. The Boston Public Health Commission is in the process of planning other forums for Alston-Brighton and Charlestown for the fall. Stay tuned for more details.
-Matt Noyes