Do I have the right to receive medical care while I am in DCF custody?
You absolutely have the right to receive physical and mental health care while in DCF custody. This includes medical, dental, visual, mental health services, and behavioral health screening. Within 30 days of entering foster care you should have a complete physical exam, dental assessment, and mental health assessment. If you need treatment, DCF will arrange for follow-up care including a specialist if that is what you need. Talk to your social worker or foster parent if you want to go to the doctor, dentist or counselor. Your caregiver should take you to your appointments or make sure you have transportation.
You have the right to have regular checkups, such as eye exams, physicals and vaccinations, as well as to be seen by a medical professional if you have any medical problems, injuries or need dental care.
If you are not a “mature minor” (see the next question) or over the age of 18, then DCF must give you permission to get routine medical care. Call your social worker who will help you get there. If the medical care that you need is more serious, such as a surgery or anything that involves anesthesia (putting you to sleep for a procedure), then you must get permission from the court. Still, call your social worker for help on this. **In the case of an emergency or life threatening illness, go to an emergency room and you will receive the appropriate care.
If you are on MassHealth and need help finding a dentist you can call MassHealth at 1-800-207-5019 or visit https://www.masshealth-dental.net/ for a complete list of MassHealth dental providers.
Can I receive medical or mental health care while I am in DCF custody without DCF permission?
If you are under 18, you usually cannot receive routine medical or mental health care without DCF permission unless you
- Are a parent or think you might be pregnant
- Want to be treated for problems with alcohol or drugs
- Think you may need treatment for a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Your doctor determines that you are a "Mature Minor" which gives you the power to make your own medical decisions or
- It is an emergency.
If you are having a medical emergency, however, get help immediately WITHOUT waiting for permission!
If I am in DCF custody, how do I find out about or get birth control?
You can receive birth control by talking to your doctor or going to a local family planning clinic. They can talk to you about abstinence, nonprescription, and prescription birth control options, and answer any other questions you might have. See Chapter on "Pregnancy and Parenting" for further detailed information. For more information about birth control, you can call 1-800-230-PLAN to contact a Planned Parenthood counselor in your area. Tip: You do NOT need permission from DCF or anyone else to ask about or receive birth control.
Can I have my own health records?
After the age of 14, you have the right to access your medical, dental, visual, and mental health records. You can get a copy of these records by asking for them at your doctor’s or therapist's office or through e-mail or phone. Before you leave the office:
- Know the name and contact information for your doctor, dentist and counselor.
- Have a record of your medical history including your immunizations and any current prescriptions.
- Have a record of mental health assessments, treatments and prescriptions.
It is important that you have a copy of all of your medical records when you leave DCF custody.
What is MassHealth and how long can I use it?
MassHealth is a health insurance program run by the government of Massachusetts that provides comprehensive health insurance or assistance in paying for private insurance. You must meet the financial eligibility and be a citizen or have legal status. Those that are eligible for “standard” MassHealth benefits include:
- Pregnant women
- Children under age 19
- Parents living with children under age 19
- People who are considered disabled according to federal requirements
- People receiving income assistance and people who are in the first year of a new job after receiving income assistance.
You will receive MassHealth through DCF until you turn 18. After you turn 18, you can continue to receive MassHealth until you are 21 if you sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement with DCF, OR leave DCF care/custody between 18 and 21 and remain in the state of Massachusetts.
You do not need to complete an application when you leave care. A new card with a new number will be mailed to the address you give to your social worker when you leave care. Be sure to let your social worker know any time you move to a new address so MassHealth can mail you a new MassHealth card with your new number. When you turn 21, you will not have to fill out another application for continued MassHealth coverage which should last until you are 26. Call MassHealth at 1-800-841-2900 for current information.
Tip: Health insurance is mandatory in Massachusetts. That means you have to have health insurance. To make this easier, the state will give you free health insurance if you have very little money and will make insurance cheap enough for you to pay it if you have a limited amount of money. It is important to get health insurance for many reasons; luckily, Massachusetts makes it easy to do so!
Who makes medical decisions for me when I am 18 if I can't make them because I am too sick?
You have the right to name someone to make such decisions for you. The transition plan you work on with your social worker before you leave care must include information about designating another individual to make health care treatment decisions on your behalf if you become unable to participate in making decisions and you don't have a relative who would otherwise be authorized to make such decisions. Your social worker or a DCF Adolescent Outreach Worker can provide you with information on a health care proxy.
What do I do if I think I need mental health services?
If you have been receiving therapy you may be eligible to receive services through the Department of Mental Health (DMH). Ask your lawyer or social worker to help you apply for DMH services or get an application from your local DMH office. Local mental health clinics are also available to provide you mental health services. Sometimes your feelings or behavior are causing you so many problems that you need help. Help can come from therapy or counseling. Medication may be able to help.
If you are 16 or older, you can admit yourself to a mental health treatment facility. You can also ask to be treated as an outpatient so you can continue living in the community while receiving treatment. You have the right to receive all treatment that is medically necessary including mental health treatment.
What if I use drugs or drink too much?
If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug use and your life revolves around getting and using drugs or alcohol, ask yourself whether you have some other symptoms of addiction:
- having to use more to feel the same "high",
- fever, sweating or general discomfort when withdrawing from using,
- using more than you planned,
- unsuccessful attempts to quit,
- not going to school or work,
- spending money on drugs or alcohol that you need for food or rent, or
- continuing to use even though you know it is a serious problem.
Talk to your social worker or lawyer or call the substance abuse helpline at 1-800-327-5050 or go to the website: https://helplinema.org/
For free and confidential help with finding the right youth service program in Massachusetts, call Central Intake and Care Coordination at 617-661-3991 or toll free at 866-705-2807.