Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Reaching Out

April 27th, 2015

rowofkidsReaching out and helping youth and young adults is very important. To give us attention shows us that you really care. Reaching out and helping is one of the best things that anybody can do. Look at all the trouble that happens to youth on the streets every day or that’s caused by youth and young adults.  We search for support with our actions. We speak out to you with no answer. It’s our cry for help.

I am amongst the youth and have done things in the past in an attempt for attention and support. I have set fires and even fought at school. I’ve been to different programs in three different systems. I stuck with a few programs for a while but eventually ran or decided they were not for me. One program has been helping me for five years now. I think they will always be there for me.

I have been going to PPAL and Youth MOVE for five years. It is a wonderful placed to go that reaches out to you. They talk to you, ask you how you’re doing, and offer you help whenever they can. PPAL has helped me a lot. Helped with things such as getting my ID, helping me find a job, and given me people I can talk to.  PPAL has groups every week for youth and young adults. It’s a good place to talk because it’s not run by doctors or people sitting in the corner with a clipboard, it is just youth talking to each other. We have dinner together. I can also hang out with other youth and young adults that are around my age group and listen to their experiences. I can get feedback about how I can deal with some of my experiences in the past or even problems I have now.

Before coming to PPAL I was really scared to talk about anything and when I opened my gates and started talking, I felt so much better. I began coming constantly and kept getting support emotionally and now I help as well. I help set up the groups and run parts of the meetings. Sometimes I stay away for a while and am worried about going back. I worry about how I might be judged. PPAL doesn’t judge me for why I was away. They welcome me back and help me get back on track. They offer to help.

I am a troubled youth just like a lot of youth. Many of us feel alone and like we have it the worst, but you are not alone. Talk to somebody. Open up. You might find somebody who is reaching out to you. I can personally say that a lot of people at PPAL know what they are talking about. We don’t fake it. We know how you feel. We will help.


This blog was written by a 19-year-old young adult member of Youth MOVE Massachusetts. They have lived experience in mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems. Their strengths include leadership skills and writing poetry to name just two.

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A real spitfire

November 12th, 2012

Everyone brings with them their own presuppositions about a new environment. The City of Lynn is no different. When one hears the phrase, “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin” confidence in personal safety is not the first idea to enter the mind. That said, as we enter the Centerboard Headquarters, it is difficult to ignore the feeling of safety and calm that emanates from the walls.

We walk into the office in which we would be interviewing Dalene Basden to see her sitting behind a desk as if ready to run her household from a comfy armchair. Dalene is a Family Support Specialist, who has supported and mentored countless parents over the years. Prior to our meeting, she had been described to us as a real ‘spitfire’ and community member, and this description is proved accurate right off the bat as, when asked to describe her family, she responds first with a haughty chuckle and then proceeds to explain that while she does indeed have three biological children, all of the young ones in her neighborhood are her children. “Most kids call me ‘Nani’ and my husband is ‘Big Steve’”, she explains, pointing out that though her neighborhood is filled with a large variety of people, her door is never locked to the curious and friendly children.

How is this whole oneness of a neighborhood so achievable with such diversity? Not to say that different cultures cannot get along, but simply that different traditions may not always lend themselves to social harmony with one another. Dalene would simply scoff at this question. “My community is my culture,” she says, an idea that pervades her life as a mantra of sorts as both her way of living and her dream for Lynn one day. “I live, work, play, pray, and shop in my community…I work 24/7.”

She explains that the city is a big place, full of all sorts of people. The trick is finding a way of knitting together the close-knit communities throughout. Lynn is growing at a fantastic rate and the city is changing just as quickly. And with this change, Dalene advocates for the idea that “It’s all about the kids.” Here is where Dalene really starts to come alive. The passion in her eyes only grows as she starts listing off how she would work toward a day when “Lynn” would be synonymous with harmony and family. “If I had a million dollars, she says, “I’d open a gym.” Anything to keep the youth easily involved in their communities and anything to keep the parents involved with their kids, because if anything fills Dalene Basden with pride and happiness, it is seeing her children succeed and make lives for themselves. When asked what her proudest moment was, she chuckles at the thought of reducing it to a single moment. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, she says. “I have a family.”

From talking with Dalene, it is clear that she is grateful for her life in Lynn, boasting proudly that all three of her biological children were real Lynners. She is proud of her culture. She is proud of her family. She is proud of her children. She is proud of the work she’s been able to do. She is proud of her city. As we leave Centerboard, we are struck by how fitting a place Centerboard was to meet Dalene Basden as both are bastions of safety and reconstruction, and are reminded of Dalene’s words: “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin? I don’t buy that at all.”

Will Foritier, a student at Gordon College, wrote this article as part of “A Day in the Life” project led by The Centerboard, located in Lynn Massachusetts. It is reprinted here with their permission. Please visit their facebook page here.

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Schools, photo IDs and privacy

May 28th, 2012

Every year when children return to school, parents wade through and sign a stack of forms.  Buried in the middle is a form where you check off one box giving permission to have your son or daughter’s picture taken for a student ID and another for the school to take or use their photo if the media should need it.  What if you discovered the school offered that photo to the police for a photo line up?

This is exactly what happened to one student at a Boston high school.  Here are the facts.  The student left the school and got on a public bus to return home.  Later in the day, police allege that he robbed another student of his cell phone and ipod.  The detective on the case went to the police officer at the school to see if he could obtain a student photo.  This police officer, in turn, went to school staff who handed him the student ID, which had a photo, name and date of birth.  The police did not have a search warrant and no one had asked for or received parental consent. 

However, the background of the ID was quite different from other photos the detective had.  So the police officer assigned to the school went back to school staff and asked for and received several more student photo IDs.  These other students probably bore some resemblance to the suspected student (no doubt they were all male) and all their pictures had been taken in front of the same background.  Again, there was no search warrant or parental notification or consent. The photos were enlarged and the names and birth dates were removed.

The victim made an identification, charges were filed and the case went to court.  The judge in juvenile court barred the police and district attorney’s office from using the photo array as evidence saying the student had a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”  An appeal was filed and it was heard before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  Last week, the court sent the case back to the juvenile court saying there wasn’t enough evidence presented in the case on how student ID cards are created and used in order for them to made a decision.  “In ruling as he did, the judge made certain assumptions about the photograph that may well be correct, but evidence supporting the assumptions is not in the record before us,” Justice Margot Botsford wrote for a unanimous court.

After many well-publicised school shootings, beginning with Columbine in 1999, towns and cities across the U.S. began locating police officers in schools.  Administrators, staff, parents and the community were worried about safety.  Today, many schools have police or school resource officers located on school grounds.  Unsurprisingly, when school resource officers are co-located they are often treated as fellow school staff. The boundaries can blur.

A parent’s job is to keep their child from harm. We do this because we love our children and know that while we can’t keep every hurt at bay, we can try to shield them from a great deal.  When we sign those permission forms for a photo to be taken or used for media purposes, none of us imagine we are agreeing to let the police use those photos.  Besides the student who the police suspected, there were 6 or 7 other students whose photo IDs were pulled by the resource officer and handed over to the detective.  These students were guilty of nothing more than bearing a resemblance to the student suspected of robbery or having their picture taken in front of the same background. What if any of them had been mistakenly identified? For a parent to willingly agree to have their child’s photo in a police line up qualifies as putting their child in harm’s way.

Schools often take on the task of teaching students to be wary of sharing personal information on the internet, facebook or by texting.  Parents often worry about their child’s personal information being used for some nefarious purpose but also know that a photo ID can benefit their child as well.  We all recognize the need for the school to have information about our children.  What should be our expectation of privacy?

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Thumbs up, Governor

October 21st, 2011

Dear Governor Patrick,

Let me say right up front that this is a letter of thanks.  Something remarkable is going on in children’s mental health here in Massachusetts.  We’ve been pretty quiet about it and I’m not sure why.  I think we should be shouting it from the rooftops every chance we get, don’t you? 

As you know, a girl named Rosie D and her family got together with others like them and sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a few years ago.  Her family believed that children should receive mental health treatment in their communities whenever possible instead of going to residential programs or hospitals.  The state had a few small programs to fit the bill, but not enough to even start to go around. 

The federal judge wrote in his decision that Massachusetts needed to change how it delivered mental health services to children and youth receiving Masshealth a year before you became governor.  But when those families went to court, they wanted a remedy, not money or damages.  What landed in your lap was the task of creating that remedy and having it meet the needs of all those children, youth and families that were counting on it. 

There are lots of children and youth here that need these services in order to have the kind of life their parents want for them and that they deserve. Epidemiologists tell us that 1 in 5 children experiences a mental health disorder during the course of a year. That comes out to 286,600 children in the Commonwealth.  For most of them, there is a delay before they receive treatment, often a delay of years. 

Since that judge issued his order, the people on your staff have created something amazing and unprecedented.  They designed the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative and they said they were going to change how things work for children and teens like Rosie D. They made sure the services were in the community.  They created a model where families were part of the team figuring out what care was needed.  They designed a new way to respond to mental health crises (and we all know that children have their crises at inconvenient times) so that the team came to the family instead of the parent and child trekking to the emergency room.  And it’s up and running all across the state.

As with all new initiatives with this kind of scope, there are still things to work out.  Sometimes the services don’t work the way they should.  Sometimes children don’t get what they need right away.  Sometimes we just need to tweak things and sometimes significant advocacy is called for.

My father, a New Englander to the core, used to say that you can’t learn to ice skate without falling down.  While no one wants to see mistakes, we can learn from them.  Parents want their experiences, good or bad, to make it better for the next family behind them.  Parents want to and will be the Amazon.com reviewers and consumer reporters of the services that their children receive.  I wish there were a way to make sure their experiences were collected and used to improve the design, the practice and the kinds of outcomes we focus on.  Their input is incredibly valuable.  Can we think about that?

You probably know all this, but what you don’t know is how the rest of the country — or at least those who pay attention to the children’s mental health world — finds this both jaw dropping and exciting.  It’s not just what’s been done here, its the scope of it. When I go to an event with people from other states, they come over and want to hear the details.  They want to know how families see things, how this new initiative has changed our system of care for children in Massachusetts and they are hungry for both data and advice.

People in other state governments want to hear about our successes, our roadblocks and how we continue to improve things.  Researchers want to hear about our data and outcomes.  Policy makers are interested in how this has impacted other children’s services, funded both by the state and by private insurers.  Families want to know how they can help build something similar in their own states. 

We all need good news in these tough economic times.  You’ve done something remarkable here despite those tough times.  Let’s get the word out.  In the meantime, thumbs up.

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Massachusetts parent voice goes to Washington

April 24th, 2011

Today’s post is by Michelle Brennan, our guest blogger.  Michelle is a parent from Massachusetts who recently went to Washington to advocate for children’s mental health.****

I recently had the opportunity to go to Washington DC to lobby for better children’s mental health services. I was there as the Massachusetts parent voice and to partner with child psychiatrists to make the case that continued support and funding for children’s mental health is crucial.  It was truly an honor and an experience I will not soon forget.  I learned many things but the most important was:  we as parents have the power to enact change for our children.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has an annual lobbying day.  They bring together psychiatrists, medical students, advocates and parents to work in teams to lobby the congressional delegation from individual states.  I had the privilege of working with two great psychiatrists, John Sargent, director of Tufts Medical Center’s  Child and Adolescent Psychiatry division and Anthony Jackson who works with the state mental health system and is in private practice.  The AACAP gave us training and information which made me and parents from other states feel at ease as we visited the offices of our senators and congressman.  Our team met with representatives from  the offices of Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown as well as Congressmen John Olver, Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey.  Since these staffers can meet with as many as 40 groups per week, it was important  they remember us and our message.

Here is where the power of the parent voice comes in.  My husband and I have three sons with various degrees of mental illness.  When speaking with the legislative aides, I was able to tell them our personal story and show them a picture of our sons.  The picture is one of the boys with great smiles in front of the trees during the ice storm in central Massachusetts last year.  As I spoke of each boy, I would point to whom I was referring.  Being a parent from PPAL without ties to a professional organization, I could then ask them if they have had any experience with mental illness in their lives.  Most had been touched by this experience whether it was a family member, friend, college roommate or someone else.  Once they would share, I could follow-up at the end of the meeting. 

When I returned home I sent each person I met with a hand-written thank you note featuring a painting of the Boston Common and a picture of my boys.  In the note, again because I am a parent, I could thank them for sharing their story.  I believe this helped them remember us.

Another way that we as parents have the power to enact change is through collaboration with others. Until I went to Washington, I did not understand the value of working with psychiatrists and therapists on the imperative changes needed from our insurance companies.  I have spent the past five years fighting insurance companies to get the services our family so desperately needed.  I have learned billing and diagnostic codes, appeals processes and have fought for out of network approval for the ever dwindling pool of providers left in Massachusetts.  While the psychiatrists with me cited the sobering statistic that 50% of child psychiatrists are planning to leave Massachusetts in the next five years, I was able to talk about how this impacted my family.

I learned that we can work together to create change. Whenever you are asked to contact your elected official regarding a vote or creation of a bill, do so.  The offices keep track of every phone call, email and letter regarding an issue.  Your voice DOES count.  Remember, we are stronger together and we could ever be by ourselves.

Finally, change takes time.  Do not be discouraged.  Just like with our children, we cannot make change overnight.  Our efforts will all be worth it because of our children.

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