October 2020
PPAL Celebrates Joan Mikula
Congratulations to Joan on Her Retirement

month ago, Joan Mikula retired as the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health (DMH), leaving a remarkable legacy.  During her virtual retirement party, she heard accolades and stories from so many of us who are sad to see her leave. We reminisced about her many years of starting projects, steering and cheering them, and then making sure they had a good shot at longevity.  One of those projects was PPAL.

In the late 1980s, parents began calling DMH, looking for help for their young children.  Adult services were a no-go, they didn't want a state hospital bed, and other services were few and far between.  Joan and a group of parents and professionals created PPAL at a time when many clinicians still believed that parents caused mental illness or that they should sit quietly and let the "experts" take over. 

When PPAL was launched, community services for children were being imagined (what, work with the whole family?) and listening to parent voices was a novel experience.  Joan was a champion in both creating a family organization and putting the elements of community services for children into motion.  She continuously asked parents for their input to improve things.  "Ask a parent a question," she would say, "and they will tell you a story."  She often told those stories herself, bringing parent voice into the room even when parents weren't there.

Joan helped design a blueprint for children's mental health that we are still working from today.  In drawing it, she ensured that families are part of the ongoing structure.  We will miss her and are grateful to her for all that she has done for our community.

Reaching Out In Tough Times
PPAL Joins Drive-Through Resource Fair

The pandemic shut-down hasn't stopped PPAL from helping families find the assistance they need! On October 9, PPAL joined other community partners in the Mount Wachusett Community College parking lot for a drive-through resource fair. Thirty-one cars containing seventy-three people drove by collecting information and treats, and learning about resources and supports that are still available to families during COVID-19. 

The Resource Fair was coordinated by Making Opportunity Count (MOC) Coordinated Family & Community Engagement and was funded by the Department of Early Education & Care.

Statewide Listening Session Amplifies Family Voices
Parents Discuss Challenges of Getting Services 
During the Pandemic

At this month's Statewide meeting on October 13, Karen Snyder, Children's Behavioral Health(CBHI) Court Monitor, listened to family concerns about the delivery of mental health services since the start of the pandemic. Families shared difficulties getting their children to engage with telehealth services, the paucity of in-person services, and challenges using mobile crisis in its new virtual form. However, they underscored how family partners are going above and beyond to help during this time.

PPAL Director Lisa Lambert Publishes Article in Statewide Newspaper
Article Discusses Poll Results on the Impact of COVID-19 
on Mental Health Services

What happened this spring as COVID cases rose and health care, including mental health care, abruptly shifted from in-person to telehealth visits? In mid-May of this year, PPAL launched two surveys (one for parents/caregivers, one for youth/young adults) to find out. This month, The Provider, widely considered the voice of the private provider industry in Massachusetts, published an article by PPAL Director Lisa Lambert summarizing the results. Was it a challenge for caregivers and youth to navigate the new technology? Did families receive the help they needed? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the shift to telehealth? Check out October's issue of The Provider to find out, or read the full report on PPAL's website.

Hispanic Support Group Hosts Mass Advocates for Children
Families Learned about Their Rights at School During COVID-19

On October 20, Laura Perez of Massachusetts Advocates for Children addressed PPAL's Hispanic Support Group. She presented on "Derechos de los padres y estudiantes en las escuelas por Coronavirus" ("Parent and student rights at school during COVID-19"). Families shared their struggles with distance learning and Laura spoke regarding how to keep data on what's happening with the students and how parents/caregivers can ask for COVID compensatory services until December 15th.

For more information on Massachusetts Advocates for Children, find them online.

PPAL Collaborates on Film Screening 
and Discussion of 
Adverse Childhood Experiences
The Film Addresses the Effects of Toxic Stress and ACEs on Kids
On Thursday, October 8th, PPAL collaborated with the F
ederation for Children with Special Needs to screen the documentary movie RESILIENCE: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.

Twenty-three parents and providers viewed the film. Carly Sebastian, DMH Director of Child and Adolescent Services in Central MA, and Eileen Sandberg, from the Federation's RTSC program, joined them for a thoughtful discussion after the film about the effects of toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). 
Extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior. ACEs are understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, However, a
s the experts and practitioners profiled in RESILIENCE are proving, what's predictable is preventable!

PPAL Checks In
Did You Get a Call from PPAL Yet?
In May, PPAL embarked on an immense mission: to individually call every family that has worked with us in the past to see how they are doing during these strange and stressful times. We're still working through our list, but many of the families we've contacted have been thankful that we've reached out. One asked "How did you know to call me? I am in need of support!" and another echoed "I do need support - this was right on time." Still others commented that "I'm glad that PPAL is making support calls to check in on families. This means a lot to me," and "You must be my fairy godmother calling!"

If you receive a call from a strange number, it just may be PPAL checking in! And if you're in need of support, don't wait for our call. Find our contact information on our website and reach out any time!

PPAL's Joel Khattar Represents Fathers in TV Appearance
Joel Appeared on Breaking the Barriers of Disability
On October 29th, Joel Khattar visited the studios of the Haverhill Community channel to record the television program Breaking the Barriers of Disability, an informational program that empowers parents and educates the world. As a father, advocate, community leader, and PPAL's multicultural outreach coordinator, Khattar discussed PPAL's mission and activities. He also discussed the involvement of fathers in their child's mental health in the Latinx community. He continued to stress the importance of addressing social conditioning in order to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.

It was a rich and empowering conversation sure to educate many Latinx fathers through many communities.

Check Out PPAL on Instagram
Sharing Advice, Inspiration, and More!

PPAL's Instagram account is your go-to source for helpful and inspirational posts, advice for parents/caregivers, and a bit of fun! This month PPAL staff shared things we never thought we'd say, but did, as well as thoughts and inspirations that get us through the day. We've also launched a regular post - "This week at PPAL." Follow us on Instagram so that you'll never miss a post!

Parent/Professional Advocacy League| 866-815-8122 | 617-542-7832 | info@ppal.net | www.ppal.net

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