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Kids shouldn’t have to navigate maze to get mental health care

Mass. bill would compel insurers to keep directories current

On behalf of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, a statewide coalition of families, advocates, health care providers, educators, and consumers dedicated to comprehensive reform of the children’s mental health system, we applaud the Globe’s coverage of the challenges families face finding services for their children (“Study confirms difficulty of getting help for children with mental issues,” Page A1, May 9). We believe that there is a common-sense step that can be taken to alleviate much of the problem of so-called ghost networks, or inaccurate provider lists on insurers’ websites.

Legislation filed by Representative Christine Barber, of Somerville, and Senator Jennifer Flanagan, of Leominster, is being heard next week. The bill would make provider directories more accurate, accessible, and reliable by requiring insurers to make weekly updates and proactively communicate with their providers to ensure that directories correctly reflect information about the services a provider delivers, languages providers speak, and whether the provider is accepting new patients.

The shortage of clinicians to treat children with behavioral health needs is real, and challenging enough. The least we can do for parents trying to get the best care for their children is to ensure timely access to accurate information.


Mary McGeown
Executive director
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Children

Apply prevention model to widen the net of care

Re “Study confirms difficulty of getting help for children with mental issues”: The horrifying journey of parents with a child in emotional distress calls attention to the need, not for more psychiatrists to prescribe medication, but for a complete transformation of mental health care to a preventive model founded in contemporary developmental science.

Research at the interface of developmental psychology, genetics, and neuroscience shows us that a wide range of emotional struggles can be effectively treated by recognizing these four basic principles: the relational nature of emotional distress, the need to understand a problem in its developmental context, the value of a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, and the importance of protecting time for listening for the meaning of behavior.

Professionals from a wide range of disciplines have the opportunity to apply these principles. For a family whose child is suffering, the question is not, “What is the disease and who will treat it?” but rather “Who will listen to us, help us make sense of our struggles, and point our family back on a healthy path of development?” If we as a society step away from the medical model of disease, and embrace this preventive model, we dramatically widen the net of care.

Dr. Claudia M. Gold

The writer is a pediatrician and the author of “The Developmental Science of Early Childhood: Clinical Applications of Infant Mental Health Concepts from Infancy Through Adolescence.”