News & Updates
November 2020 | Issue 8
Powered by Purpose | Making a Difference | COVID-19 Resources | Research Updates| Worth Noting | Events
Powered by Purpose

The death of Walter Wallace, Jr. last week in my hometown, Philadelphia, was yet another sad reminder that our current responses to mental health crises are failing, with devastating and unacceptable consequences.

On Oct. 26, Walter, a man known to police and the mental health system, was shot and killed by police after multiple visits to Walter’s home in connection with his escalating mental health crisis. On the third visit that day, Walter held a knife when he met two police officers outside and was shot 14 times in the street, even as his mother shouted to police officers that he had a mental health condition and begged them not to shoot.

A 2016 national study by the Ruderman Family Foundation estimates that at least 35-50 percent of police use-of-force instances involve a person with a disability. This is true in Massachusetts, where the Boston Globe found that nearly half of people killed by Massachusetts police between 2005-2015 were suicidal or having a mental health crisis.

As a Black man, Walter had the additional risk factor of race, which led thousands of Philadelphia residents to protest his killing last week. As noted in the 2016 study, “Disability intersects with other factors such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, to magnify degrees of marginalization and increase the risk of violence.” Walter’s family, in a generous act in the midst of their grief, called not for retribution but for investments in police training and mental health responders. 

There are solutions. In Massachusetts, for example, some communities route 911 calls involving mental health crisis to mobile crisis response teams, which are better equipped to de-escalate situations and engage the person in ongoing support. Other communities use a “co-responder” model, in which specially trained social workers accompany police officers in responding to crisis calls.

As our nation continues its long-overdue reckoning with police use of force against people with disabilities, investing in alternatives to crisis response is essential. MAMH will continue to advocate for comprehensive service systems that offer help, not harm, when people need it most.

Danna Mauch, PhD
President and CEO
Making a Difference
Gov. Charlie Baker released a revised Fiscal Year 2021 budget on Oct. 14, and the Legislature has begun consideration of proposals to fund state agencies and programs through June, 2021.

MAMH provided oral and written testimony to support a number of priorities affecting people with mental health conditions and their families. You can read our written testimony here, and find additional information and links about these critical budget priorities here. These include the following requests for critical programs at DMH:

  • An increase of $3 million above the Governor's proposal to address a shortfall in funding the DMH Rental Subsidy Program and provide additional funding to support housing for 71 individuals (learn more here);

  • An increase of $4 million for Child and Adolescent Mental Health to restore cuts to some key existing programs and redirect funding to emerging priorities; and

  • An increase of $2.59 million for Jail Diversion Programs to restore $590,000 in cuts and provide an additional $2 million to increase the number of police departments working closely with mental health professionals as "co-responders" to mental health crises calls.

As the budget and legislative processes progress this fall, check your email inboxes for Action Alerts and stay current by checking MAMH's Take Action page!
COVID-19 Mental Health Updates & Resources
Recognizing the impact of COVID on children’s mental health, the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), and DMH have launched a new family-friendly website for parents and guardians of school-aged children who are concerned about their child’s mental health. Learn more at

In recent surveys, many people report feeling high levels of stress as a result of COVID, the impact of racism, and other experiences and events of 2020. But what is stress, and how is it different from anxiety? A new infographic from the National Institute on Mental Health explains. Learn more. 

A new report by the MA Healthy Aging Collaborative, Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and Tufts Health Plan Foundation highlights the strategies that communities in Massachusetts used to create more inclusive and equitable systems to support older people during COVID. Learn more.

 In Case You Missed It ...

The second webinar in our Well Being in the Time of COVID series focused on strategies to address the traumatic impact of COVID on children and families, based on a recent report and recommendations by the MA Childhood Trauma Task Force. Check out our conversation with OCA's Melissa Threadgill, who also gave us a tour of the new Handhold website for families! Access the webinar here.

The COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information Hub at Network of Care Massachusetts is updated weekly! Find guidance and updates from state agencies, new tools and resources to support wellness during the pandemic, and links to help access a range of behavioral health and social services. 
Research Updates
A new report published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation proposes a vision and framework for behavioral health urgent care and outlines a series of policy and programmatic recommendations to address workforce, clinical, payment, and administrative barriers to implementation. Learn more. 

In an important new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 11 percent of adults in the U.S. reported ever having a substance use problem. Of those, 74.8 percent reported that they were in recovery or had recovered. Click here to access the research summary by the Massachusetts General Hospital's Recovery Research Institute here.

Critical new research on chronic pain supported by the National Institute on Mental Health finds that younger Americans with less than a bachelor's degree report higher levels of pain than today's older adults did at their age. In contrast to other wealthy countries, the prevalence of pain in the U.S. peaks for people in their late 50s, then decreasing and leveling off around age 70. Learn more.

The Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety is piloting a series of virtual peer support groups aimed at helping frontline health care workers thrive despite the stresses and emotional toll of caring for people during the pandemic. The pilot initiative will be evaluated in December with an eye toward scaling it to meet the needs of a larger group of care providers in 2021. Learn more.
Worth Noting
November is National Caregiver Month. Find information, resources, and tips with this series of short videos produced by PsychHub Education. Learn more.

Many people find they feel sluggish, depressed, or blue with reduced daylight in the winter months, especially after clocks "fall back" one hour. NIMH has compiled information about Seasonal Affective Disorder, including effective approaches to treatment. Learn more.

A new statewide campaign urges us to Ask, Listen, Encourage, and Check in with family and friends who may be struggling to cope. #moretothestory aims to normalize conversations about mental health and reminds us that we don't need to be an expert to support a friend. Learn more.

A group of foundations and major funders in California issued a new report calling for policies to reduce toxic stress and trauma by addressing underlying causes such as systemic racism, economic inequity, and unequal access to health-promoting resources like parks and public transit. "Without addressing these underlying causes, we will not dramatically reduce ACEs in California." Learn more.

The SAMHSA Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) has compiled a set of online resources, trainings, and information on the topic of Responding to COVID-19 Grief, Loss, and Bereavement. Learn more.

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation has created a series of infographics designed to help employers understand the critical mental health implications of COVID-19 and take action to support their workforce. Learn more.
Even as we minimize our physical interaction with others to help control the spread of COVID-19, we can continue to stay engaged, learn new things, and connect with others in our community. Take advantage of the many opportunities for free, online training and resources!
Thursday, Dec. 3, 10:00am-12:00pm ET
This Symposium honors the memory and service of Stephanie Moulton by providing information, resources, and an environments of healing for direct service workers and others in the mental health community.

Technology and Older Adults (3-part seminar series)
Nov. 9, Nov. 16, and Nov. 23, 11:00am-12:00pm ET
This free 3-part seminar series with Dr. Karen Fortuna (Dartmouth College) addresses practical issues older adults may encounter in accessing technology and offers strategies to engage older adults with technology and teach them how to use it.

Monday, Nov. 23, 9:30am - 12:00pm ET
SPI is a 6-step intervention designed to help individuals cope with suicidal thoughts and de-escalate these thoughts in time of potential crisis. This workshop is sponsored by the MA Department of Public Health.

In Case You Missed It ...

This year's Healthy Minds Network Fall Mental Health Symposium 2020 brought together researchers, clinicians, campus practitioners, entrepreneurs, advocates, students, and others to discuss anti-racism efforts as they relate to student mental health, focusing on how individuals and organizations can advance mental health equity and research with an anti-racism lens.