(a) The University of Massachusetts at Boston, through its office of dispute resolution, shall conduct a study of the effectiveness of community mediation to broaden public access to dispute resolution. The study shall inform state-level planning and decision-making to support and build upon existing infrastructure and enable investment in sustainable community mediation programming within the commonwealth in the coming years. For purposes of this study, "community mediation" shall mean mediation service programs of a private non-profit or public agency that: (i) use trained community volunteers and serve the public regardless of ability to pay; (ii) promote collaborative community relationships and public awareness; and (iii) provide a dispute resolution forum and alternative to the judicial system at any stage of a conflict.
(b) The study shall include, but not be limited to:
(i) a review of community mediation research, studies and data within the commonwealth and other states and countries in order to identify cost savings and economic, social, health and environmental benefits from community mediation, in some or all of the following areas: civil small claims and consumer disputes; family, divorce, child custody and visitation disputes; permanency and open adoption cases; landlord-tenant disputes and housing foreclosure cases; neighborhood conflicts around noise and property boundaries; school-related disputes; minor criminal and victim-offender restorative justice cases; interpersonal workplace disputes; and large-group disputes around public policy, environmental and community issues;
(ii) a review and assessment of the historic and current legislative and public funding structures for community mediation within the commonwealth;
(iii) a review of successful models for public funding of community mediation in other states and recommendations for potential applicability to the commonwealth;
(iv) preliminary design of a state-of-the-art performance-based community mediation funding framework within the commonwealth for state appropriations, government grants and private foundation awards that support programming where there is an identifiable public nexus;
(v) recommendations for the infrastructure and resources needed to oversee and administer such a funding framework and recommendations for implementation steps and timeframes; and
(vi) recommendations for the establishment of an inter-governmental and cross-sector advisory committee to oversee implementation and administration of community mediation funding and programming.
(c) The study shall be completed and submitted to the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means and the secretary of administration and finance on or before January 1, 2012.