Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Webster Mental Health Forum: Speaking Truth to Power is a Lot of Fun

Today's Forum was AWESOME.  I offered both of the family speakers the opportunity to post their stories on the blog-  one's name is Brianna, and she may write something soon.  I'll be back later with my take on the event.
I'm back, it's later, and I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on today's event.  First, it was held at the Webster Youth and Family Center, which is part of "the next generation" of the wraparound providers that started with Worcester Communities of Care.  Unlike the original 
program, the Youth and Family Center does not offer "family centered" psychiatric evaluations, as depicted in the illustration taken from one of the many publications describing the process of wraparound.  The Center does, however, help many families in our Town of Webster connect to other resources within the community- mental health service agencies, schools, pediatricians and the like.  Suzanne Hannigan, who supervises the CoC programs in Worcester, Fitchburg and Webster, opened with a discussion of importance of families and professionals uniting to make the case that the system needs fixing, and that S.B. 2518 is the vehicle for the needed change.  Then Karen Penta of MSPCC introduced Judge Luis Perez, speaking of the great need for more support in the services of teens.  Judge Perez sees them in his courtroom, and spoke eloquently of the need for collaboration to help the kids and families through this incredibly difficult time.  Representative Paul Kujawski spoke of the difficulties of families who were not ready to accept mental illness as the root of their childs' problems and the need to get past the stigma of mental illness to allow the healing to begin.  All of this laid the groundwork for the main event, the stories of two families that have struggled with the system.
A grandmother spoke of Danielle, a 10 y/o with bipolar disorder who faced enormous challenges in diagnosis, treatment and school placement.  She spoke of the lack of understanding of mental illness on the part of the school system, of the incredible support that she has received from within and outside of the system.  She spoke with incredible candor about the difficult roads that families take to care for their children.
Then we heard the voice of youth.  Anxiety disorder and its discontents are no stranger to this blog, but Brianna, a 17 yr/old showed us what it feels like to be part of the problem, butting heads with the system, going to therapy, going to the psychiatrist.  She shared her experience with humility and grace and a way that reminded all of us why we are doing this.  Amazing.
In the end,  Representative Paul Kujawski became the 81st co-sponsor of S.B. 2518 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  That means that, once the bill gets out of Senate Ways and Means, it has the votes to pass both Houses of the State Legislature.  Thanks Representative Kujawski.   Cool beans.

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