Friday, February 25, 2011

Need help navigating the system? Sometimes a kid needs a lawyer.

50 years ago, Leonard Bernstein captured the essential dilemma of the juvenile justice system in the song "Office Krupke", where a youth on the street goes from police officer to social worker to psychiatrist to judge in an eternal circle of ineffective care. Health Law Advocates has been trying to break that circle through the Mental Health Guardian Ad Litum program. Can be useful sometimes to have someone looking for a way out. (By the way, doesn't Lenny look great on YouTube? Really miss having him around...)


HLA and Children's Mental Health

One of HLA's leading initiatives is our Children's Mental Health Access Project (CMHAP). Since we launched this initiative, HLA's work in this area has helped scores of families to overcome obstacles to securing diagnoses, treatment, and follow-up care for their children with unmet mental health needs.

A major component of HLA's CMHAP is our Mental Health Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program which focuses on helping juvenile court-involved children who need mental health care. HLA attorneys are appointed by Juvenile Court Justices in select locations as Mental Health GAL for children in court who are falling through the cracks of the mental health system. The Mental Health GAL's role is to identify the child's unmet mental health needs, advocate on behalf of the child's interests and recommend judicial actions.

Numerous studies have measured a high incidence of mental illness among children in the juvenile justice system. The enormous cost of not diagnosing and treating mental illness in these children is apparent. Children who do not get the care they need are at greater risk of entering and remaining in the juvenile detention system and eventually the adult justice system, resulting in substantial social and economic costs to families, communities, and public agencies.

HLA's Mental Health GAL Project is currently supported by the Klarman Family Foundation and has received past support from the Jesse B. Cox Charitable Lead Trust, the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, the Nord Family Foundation and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.

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