Newsline Volume 31, Number 1

New Report about Mental Health Services in MA

By Lisa Lambert, Executive Director, Parent/Professional Advocacy

Families raising children with mental health needs face enormous challenges. They struggle to get a clear diagnosis, comb resources online and wait for extended periods to access the treatments and services their children need. In November 2008, the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PAL) invited parents whose children had emotional, behavioral and mental health needs to participate in a survey. The goal was to better understand the barriers families encounter when accessing needed treatment for their child. The results, which represent data from 471 parents, are detailed in a new report, Overcoming Barriers in the Community.

The most striking finding was the impact of out of pocket expenses on families, as a result of their child’s mental health care. Parents stated there was very little cushion in their budget for health care costs. Thirty-two percent said that their child needed a treatment their insurance didn’t cover while 30% said the co-pay for therapy or medication was difficult to afford.

While respite care has been shown to be a key component in the treatment of children with mental health needs, 19% of parents stated they had never heard of respite care. Of those who had, 75% found it important but difficult to access. Parents also reported that getting a diagnosis was difficult (66%) and that long waits for services was widespread (61%).

Despite all this, parents wrote again and again how much they appreciated support, excellent resources and effective services. They overwhelmingly reported (71%) that the most helpful resource was other parents; the internet was a close second (58%). Forty-one percent described how their child’s services made a difference. Families respond strongly when asked about how their experiences and their knowledge should be used to improve the system that serves them.

Learn more about PAL, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, and read the report at