A Healthy Blog

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

Wall Street Journal Tells the Rest of the Country What Worcester Already Knows

Wall Street Journal Tells the Rest of the Country What Worcester Already Knows

September 11, 2009

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting the benefits of providing mental health consultative services in early education settings. When these services are available, behavioral problems are more effectively addressed, children have better school experiences, and, as the article states, the classroom environment is more cheerful.

Worcester has been leading the way in implementing these ideas for several years. Together For Kids (TFK), a program of Community Healthlink, is a community network of parents, providers, and advocates that provides support for children and teachers in preschools.

Particularly in these challenging economic times, TFK found a particularly attractive additional benefit for providing mental health consultations: every dollar that is spent in an early education setting saves more than $2 the following year in reduced Special Education costs in kindergarten!

Unfortunately, however, the futures of programs like TFK are in danger. In the FY 2010 State Budget, the Legislature cut funding for mental health consultative services in early education settings by 60% -from $2.9 million to $1 million.

Recognizing that the Legislature had to make tough decisions, one cannot help but wonder if this was a case of being pennywise and pound foolish. Assuming that TKF’s findings hold up statewide (and we have no reason to believe otherwise), the almost $2 million reduction in preschool funding will mean that elementary schools will see a nearly $4 million increase in Special Education costs in the 2010-2011 school year.

In a time of crisis, it’s hard to think long term, but failure to do so could have disastrous consequences.

Matt Noyes
Policy Manager