I had the opportunity this morning, amidst the budget cuts to Children's Mental Health and the roll-out of the CSAs, to join the Medical-Legal Partnership|Boston breakfast, in which advocates for health in the Boston legal community were honored and the needs of the poor were highlighted. It was wonderful to see the energy in the room; Massachusetts now has medical-legal partnerships in Boston, Lowell, Lynn and Holyoke in addition to our site in Worcester, and many of those sites are connecting to the pro-bono community, to assure that patients have access to the care that they need to keep families healthy.
The keynote speaker was Diane Patrick (wife of Governor Deval Patrick) who, as a former schoolteacher and attorney, has an acute understanding of how, for the poor, small obstacles can become major problems. She spoke of a number of cases: a woman fleeing domestic violence who couldn't get health benefits for her child because of fears about unresolved immigration issues, a woman who didn't know how to defer a state hearing to attend her mother's funeral, a family working through the issues of transition to adulthood of a severely disabled youth- each presented a problem that required specialized legal knowledge in order for the law to fulfill its intent. She sees the benefit of a little legal input early in the process, and how getting access early saves the family from a lot of grief and the Commonwealth from a lot of problems later in the process. Her remarks were a fitting backdrop, reminding us all why it is not a good idea to let the edifice collapse under the weight of the state budget crisis.
And so it goes. Mental health access is what this blog is all about, but mental health services are really just a small part of the fabric of services needed to allow children to be, and to become. Ms. Patrick gave us the rationale; her husband needs to help us to figure out the means. Which , by the way, is why there is a "STOP THE CUTS" rally at the State House today. Read about it HERE.