Parent/Professional Advocacy League
The Massachusetts Family Voice for Children's Mental Health               
   January 2017
The New Year Brings Loads of Great News!
In this issue:
  1. Upcoming Trainings
  2. Youth MOVE MA Announcements & Events
  3. A Successful January Meeting with DMH Commissioner Joan Mikula
  4. Recovery & Resiliency Grant News
  5. PPAL Participates in MLK Day of Service
  6. Support Group Spotlight: TAY Support Group
  7. Is a Therapeutic School Right for Your Child?

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Parent/ Professional
Advocacy League
Statewide Office-Boston
15 Court Square
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Boston, MA 02108
Toll Free: (866) 815-8122
Fax: (617) 542-7832
Central Ma Office
40 Southbridge Street
Suite 310
Worcester, MA 01608
Tel: (508) 767-9725
Fax: (508) 767-9727

February Statewide Meeting

Please join us in welcoming education advocate Lynne Rachlis.  Lynne has over 30 years of advocacy experience, with a focus on advocating for children with mental health needs. Lynne's presentation will focus on advocating for children and adolescents with psychiatric disabilities in the school system. 

Register by February 10 via email.

Tuesday, February 14
10:00 am - 2:00 pm 
Plymouth Church Conference Room
Framingham, MA

Poll Results

What is the best age to start educating children on the risks of substance abuse?

No age is too young  83.33% 

It depends on the child/family  16.67% 
Middle school  0% 

High school  0%  
  UpcomingUpcoming Trainings

1.   PPAL is pleased to offer two trainings in the month of February for parents, providers and other community members.
On February 8, the University of PPAL will host a training on Juvenile Justice 101.  This session is free for all parents and those raising children with mental health needs.  During this training, participants will learn how children enter the juvenile justice system, encounters with the police, and the laws that guide mental health.  We will also discuss placement options, re-entry needs and challenges, and the efforts being made to reform the Massachusetts system.  This training will take place at the Milford Youth Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  You can learn more by clicking here, and can RSVP by emailing us or calling 508-767-9725.

On February 15, the University of PPAL will offer a session on LGBTQ and Mental Health.  Participants will learn the history of LGBTQ identity and how it relates to the mental health system, along with the current and inequalities in mental health care.  Our trainers will offer strategies on how to support LGBTQ youth in their care, and more about efforts to reform the Massachusetts system.  This training is free for parents and providers, and will take place at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Milford from 6 to 8 p.m.  You can learn more by clicking here, and can register by emailing us or calling 508-767-9725.  


2.  Youth MOVE Massachusetts is having an excellent January so far, and we are looking forward to a number of exciting announcements and events in the upcoming months! This month, we started our Photo Voice workshop run by graphic designer Dave Sebastien in Worcester.  The participation response to this project has been great so far! Our new groups in Dorchester also kicked off this month and we are excited to continue to expand that group.
Youth MOVE MA is excited to announce the start-up of our SBIRT Youth Leadership Committee.  This group is geared towards the prevention and support of youth and young adults with substance abuse challenges. This monthly meeting kicks off January 26, and we already have a number of great youth and young adults on board. We are also excited to collaborate with PPAL on another LGBTQ Training on February 15 in Milford (described above), as well as offering another round of Strategic Sharing for youth and young adults in mid-February as well. Stay tuned for updates on this program and others!
We are looking forward to even more community connection and collaborations in 2017! 


3. On January 10, 2017, PPAL welcomed DMH Commissioner, Joan Mikula and Director of CBHI services, Emily Sherwood, to our monthly Statewide conference. It proved to be a lively discussion, with many individuals getting up to share their feedback in receiving mental health services for their children. Several specific cases were brought to Commissioner Mikula's attention to address particular gaps when receiving services. PPAL was glad to bring such robust feedback and experiences to Joan and Emily, to then bring back to their team to make positive changes going forward in 2017.

RecoveryRecovery & Resiliency Grant News

4. As a part of the Recovery and Resiliency grant supported by SAMHSA, PPAL and our grant partners, the Transformation Center and the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, will be conducting focus groups surrounding language beginning in 2017. We have received feedback from families and youth on the importance of using consistent, agreed upon language.  This includes terminology that is culturally appropriate and accurate across groups, both in mental health and substance use alike. The focus groups will be held across the state with diverse populations so as to capture the most representative and favored language possible for all individuals.

  MLKPPAL Participates in MLK Day of Service

5 On January 16, Martina Cruz attended the #IAM Day of Service event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The goal of this event - the first of the #IAM series - was to bring together a diverse group to join together in standing up against injustice and bigotry stemming from homophobia, racism, xenophobia and islamophobia.  The event was particularly concerned with how this bigotry and injustice and impact students both inside and outside of school.  Two panels were presented during this event: the Role of Identity in the Era of Negative Political Discourse and Impact and Response to Trauma and Harassment in and out of Schools.  After these panel discussions, the participants were able to ask questions and give feedback.  This event was a great way to honor Dr. King's legacy and to come together on these issues.To learn more about this event and the #IAM series, visit

TAYsupportSupport Group Spotlight:

6.  This month, we would like to highlight one of our new support groups.  Coordinated by Emma Febo, the TAY support group is open to parents and families with kids age 14 and older that have mental health conditions.  The group's goal is to help parents during the often-difficult transition of youth to adulthood, and to help parents create a network of support with other parents who are in a similar situation.  The group currently consists of Spanish-speaking parents, but is open to all and can be bilingual.  The TAY support group meets every second and fourth Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., starting on Friday, January 27.  It is hosted on the second floor of the Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, located at 11 Wilbraham Road in Springfield.

  TheraputicIs a Therapeutic School Right for Your Child?

7. Recently, PPAL has received a number of questions about therapeutic schools. This type of school is typically geared towards children and youth with mental health and behavioral health needs, staffed by highly trained teachers and aides. While many families may want to take advantage of these options for their children, it can be hard to know how to choose the school that is best for their needs. How can families objectively evaluate a therapeutic school?

First, it is important to recognize that not all therapeutic schools will be a good fit for all students. Therapeutic schools often focus on particular types of disabilities or needs, offering different learning techniques that are meant to address those needs. Staff may be specifically trained to provide ongoing and intensive therapy and support to help children achieve success. With this in mind, parents and families should look for a therapeutic school that meets their child's needs.

Part of determining whether a therapeutic school is appropriate for your child involves meeting with a special education team. These teams oversee the development and implementation of plans designed to help students with special needs, such as individualized educational plan (IEP), a 504 plan or a behavior intervention plan (BIP). If your child is making effective progress in school and can access the same opportunities as their peers without mental health concerns, they may not be eligible to attend a therapeutic school.

PPAL works with families to help them understand the special education process, including the plans in place to help their child or youth succeed in school. Having this knowledge can empower you to more effectively advocate for your child or youth with mental health needs. If you have questions about a therapeutic school, please contact our office   to set up an appointment to discuss your concerns. 

You can learn more about therapeutic schools through the Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools (maaps) or the Building Bridges Initiative.