Advancing the rights and opportunities of persons with mental disabilities through quality legal advocacy and education in Massachusetts

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About Legislative Advocacy

About MHLAC's Legislative Advocacy

MHLAC's legislative agenda for 2015 - 2016 includes the following efforts. Below this agenda you will find a list of links to testimony by MHLAC staff on efforts related to revising regulations and other efforts.

2015-16 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Continuity of Care

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

Individuals seeking mental health treatment and support go to great strides to develop a trusting relationship with their treater. Having someone you can trust is extremely important to accomplish the work and gain the tools to manage one’s health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, current law provides for very limited continuity of care when your clinician or psychiatrist is no longer in your insurer’s network (e.g., you or your employer changes insurance or your provider drops out of the network).

What this bill will do

MHLAC believes this law does not incur any additional costs for insurers. There will be a reimbursement protocol to follow providing for reimbursement to out-network providers as well as allowing for a higher co-payment when the insurer can demonstrate the heightened cost for the individual to continue with a certain provider who is no longer in-network. Since the therapeutic relationship will be maintained, continuity of care will improve the mental health outcomes.

 

 

Fundamental Rights Enforcement on Mental Health Inpatient Units

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

For individuals seeking treatment at a mental health inpatient unit, it can sometimes be overwhelming and disconcerting to be so screened off from society and community. The 6 fundamental rights should allow one to feel that not all their liberties have been stripped during their stay. With rights however, there needs to be enforcement and due process so that one’s autonomy can be maintained.

What this bill will do

This bill will outline a process for redress that includes a complaint process, hearing and hearing officer, as well as a decision which may provide remedial relief. This will provide guidance to both the providers of treatment as well as a sense of wellbeing for the patients.

 

 

Mental Health Parity for Disability Insurance Policies

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

When individuals with short- and long-term disability policies seek wage replacement benefits, a majority of private insurers limit benefits for those being treated for mental illness (i.e., deny benefits altogether, or terminate wage replacement much sooner than is done for insureds with physical disabilities), even though people with psychiatric disabilities have paid the same premiums as others.

What this bill will do

H. 786 will ban disability insurers in Massachusetts from discriminating against persons with psychiatric disabilities.

MHLAC and numerous other organizations and legislators are supporting a bill to ban discrimination by disability (wage replacement) insurers against people with psychiatric disabilities.

For testimony on the identical bill that was previously filed, click here .

 

Parental Discrimination

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

Capable parents with disabilities are denied the right to raise their children. Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce. Removal rates of children from parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities as well as parents with sensory or physical disabilities are higher than the general population which illustrates blatant discrimination.

What this bill will do

This law will require courts to determine whether or not a parent’s disability causes harm to their child, by requiring written findings and will also require courts to determine whether the harm to the child can be alleviated by adaptive equipment or supportive services for the parent. This will result in more families remaining intact while also identifying and engaging and addressing the family’s needs.

 

Police/School Memoranda of Understanding

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between school and police departments are required by a recent change in law. But the new law offers no guidance on what an MOU should say. It will not require any change in current MOUs, even those that explicitly allow police to enforce school policy.

What this bill will do

Tracking federal guidance, this law will help bring school arrest practices under control, requiring preference in school assignments for police officers with relevant expertise in child development, behavioral health, and conflict avoidance as well as continued training to focus on enhancing officers’ understanding of students’ lives. The focus will shift to school safety from school discipline; provide guidance for appropriate use of mental health professionals; and assure adequate performance review and accountability as well as require collection and publication of arrest data.

 

Student Arrests

Click here for Fact Sheet

Click here for link to bill text and history

What’s the problem?

Commonly referred to these days as the “School-to-prison pipeline,” there is a tendency to arrest and prosecute public school students for non-violent conduct that in the past resulted in a talking-to from the school principal, an hour in detention, or a couple hours of spent at the front chalk board writing an apology. MHLAC, with a mission to protect and advance the rights of those with mental health challenges, with other community advocates believe that those with disabilities as well as those of color are disproportionately arrested under these vague pretenses. Unnecessary arrest causes serious harm to students and wastes criminal justice resources.

What this bill will do

This law will outline guidelines for schools and law enforcement to reduce the current vague use. This law, when implemented will allow only arrest and prosecution of students for more serious acts of misconduct as well as actual criminal acts. Less student arrests will likely reduce the state’s drop-out rate, eliminate cumbersome strikes against a student’s potential, and will provide opportunities, even for the most disadvantaged students, to fare better in a school district and educational environment as well as society as a whole.

 

TESTIMONY ON REGULATIONS, ETC.

  • Testimony submitted to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding proposed regulations implementing C. 222. MHLAC also participated in the drafting and submission of public comments as part of the Education Law Task Force.

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