Massachusetts law about mental health issues

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on mental health law.
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Dial 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. (Source: FCC.gov)

Visit the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline page on Mass.gov to learn more about this service and what to expect when you call.


If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Massachusetts Community Behavioral Health Centers & Help Line

Provides 24/7 expanded and direct access for those that may be experiencing a mental and/or behavioral health crisis to clinical evaluations and treatments in communities across the Commonwealth.

COVID-19 resources

COVID-19: Trial Court substance use disorder and mental health resources 
A collection of substance use disorder and mental health resources, including links to online support groups and recovery meetings, self-care resources, and hotlines and helplines.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.6A, §§ 16P-16S "Yolanda's law": enhancing children's mental health treatment:

  • § 16P Coordination of clinically-appropriate behavioral health services for children; monthly report
  • § 16Q Children's behavioral health advisory council; members; terms; powers and duties; annual report
  • § 16R Geographically-based interagency review team for disabled children who qualify for services from multiple agencies
  • § 16S Coordination of purchase of behavioral health services for children

MGL c.6A, § 16EE 988 crisis hotline centers; 988 commission

MGL c.6A, § 18L Silver alert community response system
Used to alert when an adult with serious memory impairment such as Alzheimer's disease or other type of dementia is reported to a police department as a missing person.

MGL c.19 Department of Mental Health

MGL c.112, § 172A Allied mental health and human service professionals; privilege against disclosures in court, legislative or administrative proceedings; exercise or waiver of privilege by guardian; scope of privilege
Protecting patient confidentiality.

MGL c.118E, § 10O Coverage for mental health acute treatment, community-based acute treatment and intensive community-based acute treatment

MGL c.118E, § 10P Coverage for mental health or substance use disorder services delivered through psychiatric collaborative care model

MGL c.118E, § 10Q Coverage for annual mental health wellness examination

MGL c.118E, § 81 Mental health and substance use disorder benefits; benefits for children and adolescents under the age of 19 for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral, emotional or substance use disorders substantially interfering with or limiting the functioning and social interactions of such child or adolescent; consent to disclosure of information

MGL c.123 Mental health

MGL c.140, §§ 131R-131Y Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO)
Provides a process for family and household members to petition the court to temporarily take weapons from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.

St.2022, c.177 An act addressing barriers to care for mental health
Addresses, among other things, emergency room boarding, requires emergency rooms to have a behavioral health clinician available, and will also create an online portal for faster patient care.

Massachusetts regulations and guidelines

104 CMR Department of Mental Health

Interpretive guidelines for 104 CMR 29 determining service authorization for children, adolescents and adults (Revised 12/1/2011)
Criteria for determining who can receive mental health services through the Department.

Massachusetts court rules and standards

District Court Department standards of judicial practice: Civil commitment and authorization of medical treatment for mental illness 

Probate and Family Court Standing Order 4-11: Administrative process for uncontested "Rogers" reviews and extensions. A Rogers guardianship is a type of guardianship where the court gives the guardian permission to agree to extraordinary treatment for an incapacitated person who can't to agree to treatment themself.

Supreme Judicial Court standards on substance use disorders and mental health conditions
"[T]he Supreme Judicial Court adopted these Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions in recognition of recent advances in behavioral health, including substance use disorder diagnosis and treatment, mental health care, and increased recognition of the role of trauma, including childhood trauma, and the complex interplay of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders."

Uniform Trial Court rules for civil commitment proceedings for alcohol and substance use disorders G. L. c.123 § 35

Massachusetts Executive Orders

EO 422 Services for mentally ill individuals under age 19

Forms

DMH forms, Mass. Dept. of Mental Health.
Including Complaint Form, Application for Care, Patients’ Rights and more.

Mental health forms, Mass. Trial Court.
Including new prisoner Petition to transfer form under MGL c.123, § 18(a1/2).

Uncontested extension of order for antipsychotic medications (Rogers), Mass. Probate and Family Court.

Selected cases

Web sources

Agreement between the United States and the Massachusetts Department of Correction, December 20, 2022.
An agreement between the Massachusetts state prison system and the U.S. Dept. of Justice regarding mental health care for incarcerated individuals.

Apply for mental health services, Mass. Dept. of Mental Health.
How to apply for services. There is now one application for both adults and children.

Campus mental health know your rights: A guide for students who want to seek help for mental illness or emotional distress, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2017.

Children's Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), MassHealth.
Helps "MassHealth children with behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs and their families with integrated behavioral health services and a comprehensive, community-based system of care." These services are also sometimes called "Rosie D. services". See also: Quick reference Children's Behavioral Health Initiative (Rosie D. services) [2013] and Health service finder.

DMH resource guides, Mass. Department of Mental Health.

  • Resource directory
    A listing of the cities and towns will direct you to the appropriate DMH site office and contact
  • Consumer and family resource guide
    Tailored to the needs of consumers and families
  • Multicultural populations resource guide
    Contains information about agencies and institutions in the Commonwealth that offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services
  • Young adult resource guide
    Developed to reflect the changing needs of the young adult population who need assistance in reaching their goals
  • Extreme risk guide
    "This guide provides information on resources that may be helpful to individuals, who are seeking an extreme risk protective order, or who had an extreme risk protective order issued against them."

Mental health care, Mass. Legal Help.
Provides information on dealing with insurance companies or MassHealth. "This part of the website tells you how to get insurers like MassHealth to pay for your or your family's mental health services. We do not talk about how to get onto MassHealth or where to get free services. We do answer questions about how to get services paid for once you have public or private insurance."

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
An independent agency of the SJC, it provides both advice and direct representation. Their resources and publications include:

Parents' how-to guide to children's mental health services in Massachusetts, 3d ed., 2011, Boston Bar Association.
Includes steps for getting help, paying for services, services in your child's school, and more.

Section 35 Commission report (7-1-2019)
Recommendations of the committee charged to study Section 35 commitments, or involuntary inpatient treatment for people with a substance abuse disorder in Massachusetts.

Veterans mental health, Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
Learn about treatment and benefits. Includes a list of resources by mental health topic.

What to know about section 35 civil commitments in Massachusetts, WBUR, July 3, 2019.
Provides an overview of the process and statistics concerning involuntary commitment for drug or alcohol addiction.

Print sources

CPCS mental health proceedings in Massachusetts: a manual for defense counsel, MCLE, 2020.

Mental health law (Mass Practice v.53), Thomson West, 2007 with supplement.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about mental health issues

Last updated: February 20, 2024

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