AG Maura Healey, Senator Karen Spilka push for mental health care

Everyone has a story. A family member who can’t get an appointment with a therapist for months. A child suffering an acute episode languishing in the emergency room, waiting for a treatment bed to open up. A friend who is considering a career change due to historic levels of burnout.

We are in a mental health crisis in Massachusetts. There is an extreme shortage of treatment options, fueled in large part by a dearth of mental health professionals and experienced support staff. Across all ages, races, genders and socioeconomic groups, mental health issues like depression, anxiety, addiction and suicidality are steadily rising — and we, quite simply, do not currently have the capacity in the commonwealth to treat them. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation.

This crisis is particularly acute for our young people. At the end of March, 247 children were waiting in emergency departments for treatment in Massachusetts. More often than not, these are windowless rooms meant to serve as a short stay for patients with extreme physical health problems — not long-term places for healing and respite. In fact, children may receive little to no psychiatric care while waiting for a more appropriate setting for treatment. Social media, isolation and political vitriol are magnifying the already difficult experience of growing up. Our kids are not okay.


We have seen this crisis firsthand, both in our roles in government and in our private lives. Like everyone in our state, we know too many people struggling with mental health needs who are unable to get the support they need and deserve.

It’s not all bad news. If the pandemic has a rare silver lining, it’s that more people are coming forward with their desperate need for quality mental health care, and so the longstanding stigma surrounding mental health is finally coming apart. People don’t want to struggle in silence anymore.

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