Mental Health Advocacy Program for Kids

The Mental Health Advocacy Program for Kids (MHAP for Kids) has a proven track record of significantly improving the lives of high risk youth and their families in a cost-effective manner. An independent study of MHAP for Kids found that the program substantially improves families' mental health and school attendance while dramatically decreasing the use of emergency inpatient mental health services, and reducing unnecessary costs of the state. 

MHAP for Kids embeds a specially-trained attorney/advocate in the Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in Lowell and Lynn. Each attorney/advocate assists up to 60 youths at a time. 


What is the MHAP for Kids?  HLA’s MHAP for Kids improves the health and increases educational success of children with unmet mental health needs at risk for possible or further court involvement, by advocating to improve access to needed mental health services. It achieves this goal by implementing a sustainable and replicable advocacy program, initially in two Family Resource Centers (FRCs). Two designated Staff Attorneys serve the Lowell and Lynn FRCs, advocating for up to 60 youth total at a time. This project builds on HLA attorneys’ ten years of experience serving as Mental Health Advocates and Mental Health Guardians ad Litem (GAL) in Juvenile Courts in Central Massachusetts, Boston, Lowell, Lynn, and Salem.

What is a MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney?  A MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney is a highly qualified attorney who advocates for mental health services to divert children from possible or further court involvement. A MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney conducts an inquiry into a child’s circumstances in order to ascertain what the child needs in terms of mental health care and to advocate appropriately. A MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney works directly with agencies, including schools in order to ensure that a child receives appropriate and needed services.

Why would a child need a MHAP for Kids Staff Attorney? There is a high rate of major mental illness among children in the juvenile justice system and many of these children are not receiving mental health services. An independent evaluation of HLA’s advocacy for court-involved youth in 2015 and 2016 found that 90% of the children we served had already been diagnosed with one or more mental illness and 81% had experienced a barrier to mental health treatment. The evaluation also found that a high percentage of the children we served needed emergency, inpatient and/or residential treatment. To keep these children at home, rather than in foster care system or in juvenile detention, there must be services available and advocates to help them and their families access mental health services.


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