Legislative Advocacy

To advocate meaningfully for children, we must first acknowledge the nesting structures within which they reside. Supporting children’s behavioral health requires us to advocate for children at home with their family, in their school, and with the broader community.  

Our 2021-2022 legislative priorities reflect this comprehensive approach.

We're working to ensure children and their families are able to receive high-quality behavioral health care without delay:

An Act to protect children's mental health services (HD.4021 / SD.1724) | Rep. Malia & Sen. Keenan

Establishes the position of Children’s Mental Health Ombuds in the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). The Ombuds will receive, investigate, and resolve complaints filed on behalf of a child receiving mental health services. In addition, The OCA will report annually on request for assistance and complaints made on behalf of children who are unable to access mental health care across agencies and make recommendations for legislation, policy or programmatic changes related to the protection of the rights of children with mental health disorders.

An Act relative to behavioral health urgent care (HD.3673) | Rep. Decker

Requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop regulations for urgent care centers, including requiring such centers to provide behavioral health services. By expanding settings in which behavioral health services are offered, children and families will have better access to care during behavioral health crises.

An Act relative to child ED boarding (SD.2041) | Sen. Friedman

Facilitates the creation of a publicly-accessible web portal with real-time data on children who have waited 12 or more hours following a behavioral health assessment for acute psychiatric treatment. It also establishes a complex case resolution panel, which is tasked with resolving administrative issues baring access to care   for children with complex behavioral health needs.

An Act to resolve barriers to timely access to behavioral health care for children with complex needs (SD.2018) | Sen. Friedman

Requires The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to establish a complex case resolution panel composed of the Child Advocate, designees from relevant state agencies, local education entities  and child- and family-serving organizations to review and resolve matters related to service access for children with complex behavioral health needs. The panel will determine primary responsibility for case management and payment when conflicts between state and local agencies are a barrier to a child accessing care.

An Act relative to transparency in behavioral health boarding (HD.3658) | Rep. Decker

 Facilitates the creation of a publicly-accessible web portal with real-time data on children who have waited 12 or more hours following a behavioral health assessment for acute psychiatric treatment. It also establishes a complex case resolution panel, which is tasked with resolving administrative issues baring access to care  issues for children with complex behavioral health needs.  

We're promoting strategies to strengthen behavioral health wellness and remove the barriers that prevent children with behavioral health challenges from having a successful school experience and reaching their full potential.

An Act relative to the promotion of mental health education (HD.1223 / SD.1819) | Rep. Higgins & Sen. Collins

Updates the physical education mandate to make mental health education a required subject in all Massachusetts public and private schools, in grades K-12. This legislative initiative is aligned with current efforts to integrate physical and mental health care.

An Act supporting healthy development among preschoolers (HD.770 / SD.1750) | Rep. Balser & Sen. DiDomenico 

Requires the Department of Early Education and Care to promulgate performance standards to limit expulsion and suspension of children from all DEEC licensed early education and care preschool programs. These standards are currently in place for Head Start programs.

An Act to create a thriving publich health response for adolescents (HD.3880) | Rep. Decker

Addresses several root causes of inequitable access to school-based behavioral health (SBBH) by establishing systems and protocols for the creation and maintenance of SBBH resources.  Creating these resources will  ensure all students’ behavioral health needs are supported. The bill also includes additional legislative provisions that will enable children and families to access behavioral health services when and where they need them.

As we work to ensure each child in the Commonwealth is supported, we’re also advocating for changes in the children’s behavioral health system.

An Act relative to mental health parity implementation (SD.2089) | Sen. Friedman

Addresses the persistent issue of lack of mental health parity in the Commonwealth by closing existing loopholes, increasing transparency, and providing consumers with tools to understand parity (and challenge parity violations). Strengthening parity in the Commonwealth is critical to ending discrimination in the coverage of mentalhealth care, and  this legislation is instrumental to ensuring that the Commonwealth fulfills its promise of true mental health parity.

An Act to update mental health parity (HD.447) | Rep. Balser

Updates the legislative language in relevant mental health parity legislation to  to align with a current  understanding of mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions.

An Act for medical necessity fairness (SD.1785) | Sen. Cronin 

Creates parity between mental and physical health care with respect to health insurers’ medical necessity criteria and utilization management procedures. Ensuring fair and evidence-based medical necessity criteria improves access to behavioral health care for children and families.

An Act relative to trauma screening for childhood trauma (SD.1919) | Sen. Creem

Establishes an advisory working group to update, amend, and recommend whether and, if so, how select tools and protocols for the screening of all children for the mental health impacts of trauma should be used. Requires a particular focus on screening and assessment of children who are in the care and custody of the Department of Children and Families.

An Act to increase investment in behavioral health care in the Commonwealth (SD.1416) | Sen. Friedman

Creates a timeline and process for increasing investment in behavioral expenditures, using the Health Policy Commission’s existing cost growth benchmark and annual Cost Trends hearings to guide the process.

An Act establishing an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion (SD.2068) | Sen. Cyr

Establishes an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to coordinate activities, set goals, and facilitate interagency collaboration on the promotion of behavioral health and wellness in the Commonwealth.