How we can fix Massachusetts’ broken mental health care system

Letter to the Editor

By Nicholas Covino, President of William James College July 01, 2016

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s investigation on the mental health care system in Massachusetts uncovered many ways in which the system had failed. In this letter to the editor President Covino responded and provided possible reasons why the state health care system is still broken and ways to improve it going forward. This letter to the editor was not published.


The Spotlight Team’s investigation of Massachusetts’ mental health system emphasizes that seriously mentally ill (SMI) patients have neither network nor net. Our state is responsible for treating this vulnerable population and the families who suffer with them. 

While violence is part of this picture, we must realize it is a small part of the heartache. It gets our attention, yet it runs the risk of stigmatizing and isolating those who have been judged harshly and ignored for eons. The SMI population is about 4 percent of U.S. adults, but more than 20 percent of children and adults have diagnosable mental illnesses. In our lifetime, about half of us will experience a serious mental health condition. Mental illness impacts everyone, regardless of social circumstance.

Massachusetts parents who seek mental health services for their children fail to do so sixty-percent of the time. Mental Health professionals are 85-90 percent non-Latino Caucasian and are aging, underpaid and inadequate in number. We need more hospital beds and services; ‘boarding’ mentally ill people for days is unacceptable. The fact that patients with mental illness do not bleed or threaten should not prevent them from receiving immediate and appropriate attention. This crisis needs all of us to build an effective system.