Yesterday at the State House, close to 300 policy makers, advocates, and families touched by mental illness gathered to celebrate the passage and enactment of Chapter 321 of the Acts of 2008 – An Act Relative To Children’s Mental Health. Governor Patrick, Senate President Murray, and Speaker DiMasi all spoke about the impressive achievement it was to secure the passage of such a large piece of legislation in the first session it was introduced. They credited in large degree the broad coalition that was created in the form of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign.
But if one major theme of the day was celebration, the speakers recognized that the fight is not over. “Our work is not done,” said Sandra Fenwick, Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Hospital Boston. “Full and effective implementation of all provisions is vitally important.”
Mary Ann Tufts, mother of Yolanda Torres, echoed this call. “Although the signing of the law is huge, the appropriate enactment is so much bigger. The real work begins now.”
Chapter 321 lays the groundwork for significant improvements to the current mental health system in Massachusetts. It will encourage early identification of mental illness in children, provide schools additional resources to address the mental health needs of their students, expand insurance protections for families, and improve communication and collaboration among state agencies.
In closing the event, EOHHS Secretary JudyAnn Bigby indicated the Patrick administration’s commitment to the issue. “It’s time to get to work,” she said.
For more information about the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, visit www.ChildrensMentalHealthCampaign.org.