The Ally
March 2018
The Families As Allies Newsletter





Please join us 
Thursday, May 3, from 5 - 8 PM 
at Fondren after 5 in honor of
Children's Mental Health
Awareness Month.

We invite our fellow family-run organizations and non-profit and government partners to join us
in sharing information and
fun activities for children. Contact us
at 601-355-0915 or
for more information.

We thank Fondren After 5 for their support of and partnership in
Children's Mental Health
Awareness Month. 



Department of Justice Update

The Department of Justice is currently involved in a lawsuit against the State seeking to ensure that people with mental illness get services  in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

A representative of the Department of Justice and an expert who has run a
mental health system and is retained by DOJ visited the state  in February to learn about how people receiving services and their families experience our mental
health system.  
Individuals who would like to speak with
the Department of Justice attorneys can do so by calling 1-844-664-0224 or emailing



We had a productive and exciting town hall meeting and networking day in Tupelo on February 23.  Thank you to
all the families who came out and shared their thoughts about how to make health care and behavioral health services more responsive to the needs of our children.

We appreciate the Arc of Northeast Mississippi, under the leadership of Cheryl Falzone, for hosting the event. As always, our own Henry Moore was an engaging and dynamic facilitator. 

We also thank  St. Andrew's Episcopal School for including us in its Wellness Fair on February 24, but even more for its commitment to recognizing behavioral health as part of health by having several mental health partners in attendance, including NAMI MS and Hinds Behavioral Health Services.  We enjoyed visiting with Saint Andrew's families, faculty and students. It was a special treat to have Dr. George Penick, Head of School, stop by to visit. 

If you would like Families as Allies to facilitate a town hall or be part of a community event in your area, contact Henry Moore at 601-355-0915 or 


Mental Health and Wellness Day
February 15


   Disability Awareness Day February 21


Last month, we told you about  House Bill (HB) 985, which establishes a Children's Cabinet made up of the heads of the state agencies that serve children as well as other appointments made by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house.   

H.B. 985 died on the House floor, but could be resurrected. 
The creation of a Children's Cabinet that includes a wide range of groups that care about children, families, and family run organizations and is  family driven ,
could make a critical difference in the lives of
our children. 

However, we, along with other family organizations
and grassroots groups, 
had several concerns with how HB 985 proposed to develop a Children's Cabinet. Our biggest concern was that it did not define how the recommendations of the Children's Cabinet would be implemented and  how the cabinet would  get information from, hear the concerns of, and coordinate with families.

Furthermore, as described in the bill, at least four councils, some of which are federally mandated and all of which already had family representation, were to be eliminated, and their duties and powers transferred to the new cabinet, which had no family representation. This could have put Mississippi at risk of losing federal funds and possibly facing even more lawsuits than it already does.  

Over the upcoming weekend, legislators will meet in conference committees to resolve pending legislation. 
That means that a committee of just three Senators and three Representatives could insert the language from HB 985 into another bill about something else.

The House and Senate would then have an up or down vote on the bill without all of the Senators and Representatives realizing that, in addition to voting on the original subject of the bill, they are also voting for the Children's Cabinet model that they previously voted against.    

We urge policy makers and those working closely with them to not act in haste or secret but instead to work together with families and others who care about children over the next year to create a Cabinet that is responsive to our children, inclusive and compliant with federal mandates. 



Our hearts broke last month as the news of the Parkland shooting unfolded. There are no words in the face of that kind of trauma and the unfathomable loss for families whose loved ones were killed.  We are even  more sobered by the fact that it was just a few short years ago we wrote similar words after the shooting at  Sandy Hook.

While there are no words to address the grief and loss of
the students and their families, we encourage all of us to look at some ways we can support all students and make school safer for them.  
  • Listen to what the Parkland students and other young people, especially our own children, have
    to say. They know what their world is like - we need to learn from them. Approach such conversations
    with the goal of increased understanding rather than absolute agreement.
  • Learn about  public health approaches to gun violence; this would also help decrease deaths by suicide. 
  • Rather than focus on which children do and do not have mental illnesses, support whole school behavior approaches that foster good mental health in all children from a young age. Here's one example of a school that has done so.
  • Consider the use of individual gun violence
    restraining orders
    when people are at risk for hurting themselves or others.
Here are additional School Safety and Crisis resources from the National Association of School Psychologists.


School issues, often related to special education, are by far the most common reason families contact us. That pattern
is consistent with calls to family-run organizations across
the country. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the
federal law about Special Education, 
can feel overwhelming to understand. Keep in mind that you don't have to know everything about IDEA to use it for your child's benefit. 

In 2017, the United States Supreme Court ruled in its  landmark Endrew F. decision  that Individual Education Plans (IEPs) should be appropriately ambitious and allow children to make meaningful progress in school. 

The online site recently  published an  advocacy toolkit b ased  on the Endrew F. decision with step by step instructions on how  to use language from that decision to make your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) as effective as possible. also provides a helpful overview of the Endrew F. case  here. As always, if we can support you in advocating for what you want for your child, please reach out to us.