Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It Takes a Village to Raise a Bill: Celebrating Chapter 321

I should have brought a camera, because, as with everything else they have done, Health Care for All did a great job organizing today's celebration.  (Fortunately, I was able to scarf a picture from HCFA's website and post it here- I am sure that they won't mind).  There were a lot of people here and a lot of great pictures to be taken.  The people were really happy, as they gathered to celebrate a legislative accomplishment: the passage of Yolanda’s Law, An Act Relative to Children’s Mental Health, now Chapter 321 of the Acts of 2008.
The crowd began to clap at about 2:40 PM, and the officials arrived to begin the ceremony. We began with Secretary Bigby, who acknowledgd the critical role of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, with Representative Balzer and Senator Tolman, and thanks to the leadership of Marilou Sudders and David Demasio. Governor Patrick took the stage, and thanked all of us for leading Massachusetts to a place where mental health and physical health are seen as equally important in the care of children in Massachusetts. He gave copies of the bill to Marilou Sudders and to the mother of Yolanda, a young woman who supported the bill and later succumbed to her psychiatric illness. His remarks were brief, and he passed the microphone to Senate President Murray, who further praised those who worked so hard to get this bill through. She pointed out that this bill’s high standard is the envy of all throughout the country. The microphone then passed to Speaker DiMasi, who was equally eloquent in his praise of those who worked so hard on this project.
From the Campaign, we heard from the CEO of Children’s Hospital, who reminded us that our work is not done- that we need now to finish the implementation of all aspects of the law, and Marilou Sudders, who spoke eloquently of the voices of families in the process of creating this law. She reminded us that parents and children, by sharing their stories, have given us the courage to go forward. Secretary Bigby echoed this sentiment, highlighting the story of Yolanda. Mrs. Tufts expressed gratitude that Yolanda’s voice was heard, and that her words had impact. She also reminded us that the real work now really begins, as we begin to fixc the broken system. She hoped that her family would be “last ones in” the system as it is currently configured.
Representatives of the various groups that had worked so hard to get this bill passed were on the steps behind all of the officials and speakers, and that was appropriate (and that was the picture that should have been taken).  It took all of them and all of us in the audience to get this done.  We really should be proud of ourselves-  we got a lot of work done last year.  But, as no good deed goes unpunished, we now have to embrace the task of implementation going forward.

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