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Emily Sherwood HS Children’s Mental Health Week is a nationwide opportunity for all of us to learn more about the positive impact of youth development and resilience as well as understand mental health concerns that impact children and their families. In Massachusetts we’re proud to have many services and supports available to meet these particular mental health needs.

Children’s Mental Health Week was started by a group of Missouri parents in 1991 and has been observed in Massachusetts since 1996. This year will mark its 15th anniversary of weeklong recognition in the Commonwealth. This year’s theme, “Celebrating the Diversity and Resiliency of our Families,” will include special events, programs, and social networking campaigns in communities throughout the state. For more information, click here.

We approach Children’s Mental Health Week this year with a particular sense of excitement and appreciation.  Since July 2009, six new home-based and community-based services have been introduced throughout the state for youth enrolled in MassHealth, the state’s  health insurance program for certain low-income individuals and people with disabilities.)

These new services, implemented through a statewide interagency partnership called the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), represent a new and dramatic change in the way children’s mental health services are delivered to children and youth enrolled in MassHealth. Developed through collaboration between the Department of Mental Health and MassHealth, the new services include:

  • Intensive Care Coordination, a care-coordination service for youth with complex behavioral health needs;
  • Mobile Crisis Intervention, a  component of the Emergency Services Program (ESP) that provides services to youth in crisis 24 hours a day/7 days a week, wherever the youth is located;
  • In-Home Therapy, intensive therapy to treat a youth’s behavioral health needs and help the family support the child in the home;
  • In-Home Behavioral Services, specialized therapy and behavior plans utilized for children who have not been helped by typical therapy;
  • Therapeutic Mentoring, a service that consists of a therapeutic mentor working one-on-one with a youth who requires support because of his or her behavioral health needs; and
  • Family Support and Training (Family Partners), a service that helps parents and caregivers to help their children achieve their treatment goals. Family Partners are parents or caregivers of children with special needs themselves and understand what families go through and can share their experiences.

The premise behind CBHI is straightforward.  Research has shown that families with children who have significant health needs require services that place the child at the center of any support system developed for the family. Equally important, the services must make certain the family is fully engaged in order to be effective. Policies, financing, management and service delivery developed by CBHI not only to make it easier for families to access the behavioral health services they need for their children, but they also ensure that families feel welcome and respected when obtaining the services and supports that meet their needs.

In the first year of CBHI, nearly 20,000 youth received one or more of the new services available. Staff at provider organizations within MassHealth’s programs and at state agencies worked with dedication to build this new service delivery system.  Today, more than 230 family partners in the Commonwealth who were at one time parents or caregivers of children with mental health needs provide peer mentoring and coaching to other parents across the state.

We extend our thanks to everyone involved in the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative for their tremendous work. We’re very proud of CBHI’s accomplishments over the past two years and how CBHI has changed the landscape for serving children in Massachusetts with mental health needs.

For more information about CBHI visit our website.

Emily Sherwood is Director of the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI)

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