PPAL in Print
September 2021
PPAL at 30
Did You Know?
In 2001, PPAL collaborated with Health Care for All to do its first survey of families. We are happy to report some things have improved quite a bit over the past 20 years. In 2001, 1 in 2 parents told us that their pediatrician never asked about mental health. 1 in 4 parents told us that their insurer never covered needed mental health care for their child.

While things have certainly gotten better since 2001, some challenges still persist today:

  • 39% of families experienced a treatment delay because no appointments were available
  • 36% reported no hospital beds were open when needed
  • Many parents reported they were blamed and their concerns were pushed aside

Interested in learning about the experiences of Massachusetts families in 2001? Read our first report here!
PPAL Receives President's Award
We Are Thrilled to Be Honored by the Federation for Children with Special Needs
In September, the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) honored PPAL with its President’s Award “...for their pioneering work advocating for mental health access for children, youth, and families.” The award was presented on September 8 at FCSN’s annual Gala, which was held this year at the Brae Burn Country Club in Newton. Members of PPAL’s staff and board showed up with excitement and enthusiasm to meet the board and staff of FCSN. The event was perfect, held outside in a beautiful location with hors d’oeuvres, style, connection and shared mission. 

As an organization that began under the Federation, PPAL was especially excited to receive the President's Award. We greatly appreciated this recognition of PPAL's hard work over the pandemic. Many thanks to FCSN for this distinction!
PPAL Staff at FCSN Awards
PPAL Receives Mini-Grant to Address Vaccine Hesitancy
Funding Will Be Used for Family Outreach
COVID-19 Vaccine
Recently, PPAL received a mini grant from the National Federation of Families to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Although Massachusetts has a high vaccination rate, as of August, 2 million people over the age of 12 were still unvaccinated.

Through this grant, PPAL will focus on outreach to families, with a focus on Latinx families. Some of the activities will include getting information to families we know, including the families we met in spring 2021, when we were funded to reach out to undocumented residents to provide funding for rent, groceries and techology needs. You might see us at several health fairs with materials about vaccines - especially for families. Stop by and chat with us! 
Introducing Our New Family Support Coordinator!
Please Join Us in Welcoming Tara to PPAL
New Family Support Coordinator Tara
Meet Tara Gazda, our new Family Support Coordinator at PPAL’s Worcester office.  

Tara grew up in Auburn, MA. She moved to Western Massachusetts in 1997, where she raised her children, before returning to Worcester in June 2020. She is the mother of four, three of whom she raised, and one that passed due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as an infant. Her children live with different levels of mental health needs, and have given Tara the lived experience that makes her compassionate and understanding in her work.  

While in Western Massachusetts, Tara worked as a Family Partner for more than 11 years. Through this work, she was able to connect with the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCPAP) in Springfield for several years. She also worked as a Family Partner with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) flex program. Tara's passion is working towards a better mental health system for everyone.

While not working, Tara enjoys reading, spending time with her adult children, going to the beach and hanging out with her dog, Bo.
PPAL Is Hiring!
Join Our Team as a Family Support Specialist
Looking for a job? PPAL is hiring! We are looking for two Family Support specialists for our Juvenile Justice program, based in Essex/Middlesex County and in Hampden/Worcester County. The Family Support Specialists will be responsible for providing support to families to increase their ability to find and obtain services for their children and family. This work fosters the ability of families to participate as equal partners on treatment teams and in community groups. 

Find out more about the positions here, and come join us at PPAL!
New Program Sheets Highlight PPAL's Mission
Share to Spread the Word about PPAL!
Want to learn more about PPAL, or share our info with others? We’ve got brand-new program sheets discussing who we are, what we do, and how to ask us for help. We’ve got versions available in English and in Spanish. Check them out today!
Parent Support Groups Host Guests & Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Join Us to Find Support from Fellow Parents
For the past couple of months, the Gardner Parent Support Group (PSG) for Parents of Transition-Aged Youth (PTAY) has hosted presentations by Crystal House Club House in Gardner and the Westwinds Clubhouse in Fitchburg. These programs address psychosocial and vocational rehabilitation opportunities for adults 18 years and older who struggle with their mental wellbeing. This group also hosted a meet and greet at Dunn State Park with MA State Representative Jon Zlotnik, who listened to family stories and concerns and discussed regional updates. Paula Collins from WORK, Inc joined us to talk about their Pre-Employment Transition Skills (Pre-ETS) Program.  Due to soggy weather and earlier sunsets, the Gardner PTAY PSG has been meeting virtually only until we secure an indoor location to accommodate the group.

The Winchendon PSG has been meeting outside at the picnic tables near the playground at the Wendell P Clark Memorial YMCA. Children play on the playground while parents and grandparents learn about PPAL, request specific resources, and talk about struggles and needs. Families have joined both virtually and in person. The Winchendon group currently meets in the Community Room at the Clark, as well as hosting a virtual option. Our walking group continues to meet at Elm Park. It is an in-person event in a beautiful space where participants meet with other caregivers to share experiences as well as receive support. 

Check out our events calendar here and join us at our next support group!
Statewide Conference Explores Social Security Disability
Learning How to Apply for SSI/SSDI and More
Social Security Application
At this month’s Statewide Conference, we had a large crowd join us to learn about Social Security. Our guest speaker, Caitlin Thomas, helped parents and caregivers understand the Social Security disability process and how to work effectively with Social Security. Her presentation reviewed issues such as applying for Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), what to do if you are denied, the influence of COVID on the process, and much more. It was a packed presentation with a chance for parents to ask questions at the end. 
Caitlin is an advocate who educates claimants on how to maximize their benefits, properly document their claim, and get appropriate services. She handles claims for newborns up to retirement age (66 years of age). Caitlin has been working on social security claims since 2002, and has been presenting in front of judges since 2006.
We are looking forward to having Caitlin back again! You can view the slides from her presentation here.
PPAL Reaches Out at Resource Fair
Look for Us at a Community Event Near You!
This month PPAL has been reaching out to families by hosting tables at several resource fairs across the state. On September 11, we hosted a table at the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center’s Health and Wellness Fair outside the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester. The turnout was great and we were able to talk to many families. We look forward to hosting more tables at upcoming fairs!
PPAL’s Dawn Christie and Robin Richardson at the Harvard Street Fair
Social Media Update
Follow Us to Stay Connected!
Do you follow PPAL on Facebook? If not, here’s what you’ll see:

  • Heart: Start your day with a relatable (often humorous) cartoon or quote about what life’s really like when parenting a child with mental health needs. 

  • Stay connected:
  • Each Sunday morning, check out events for the upcoming week
  • Learn about PPAL support groups, trainings and special events
  • Read the latest newsletters, tip sheets, and PPAL materials

  • Learn more: PPAL makes regular posts about mental health education, tips for working with our kids, tips to share with clinicians and schools, relevant articles, and more. Families are in different places in their journey, so some information helps families get started and other information is more focused on specific situations. 

PPAL highlights events and shares PPAL “gems” and reposts from others who capture the parent experience.

We are also excited to unveil a new blog post about one young adult’s connection to her dog - read it here!
Parent/Professional Advocacy League