The Department of Public Health (DPH) is a state agency that funds programs to help people make healthy choices for themselves and their families. The goal of many DPH programs is to prevent diseases, injuries, and early death. DPH also works on public policies to make sure people are living in healthy environments and have the resources that they need to make good health decisions.
DPH funds many different kinds of programs that are available in different parts of the state and address different health needs. As a result, DPH programs all have different eligibility requirements. If you want to know if a child or family is eligible for a certain DPH program, please check on the program that you are interested in to learn more about who can sign up and if the program is offered in your community.
Massachusetts Home Visiting Initiative (MHVI)
MHVI provides free home visiting services to pregnant women and to parents who have children under 3 years old. These programs are available in 16 communities throughout the state.
There are four types of MHVI programs:
- Early Head Start
- Home visits take place once a week for 90 minutes
- Available in Boston, Fall River, Holyoke, Lowell, Lynn, Springfield, Southbridge, and Worcester
- Healthy Families America
- Home visits take place every other week for pregnant women
- Home visits take place every week for new mothers and infants
- Available in Boston, Brockton, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, North Adams/Pittsfield, Southbridge, Springfield, and Worcester
- Parents as Teachers
- Home visits take place at least once a month, but more visits can be added depending on what the family needs
- Available in New Bedford and Pittsfield
- Healthy Steps
- Home visits take place 3 times a year
- Available in Boston, Chelsea, and Revere
To find out more information or to sign up for an MHVI program, contact the organization that provides home visits in your community. A full list of MHVI programs, providers, and locations can be found here.
Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC)
The Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) is for families with children under 5 years old. WIC not only provides healthy foods for families, but it also provides education about breastfeeding and other health topics. The kinds of foods that are available from WIC include milk, cereal, eggs, fruit juices, peanut butter, vegetables, and more. Families can also use WIC to purchase infant formula.
In order to be eligible for WIC:
- The applicant must be a father, mother, grandparent, foster parent or legal guardian to a child under 5 years old
- The family must live in Massachusetts and have a “nutritional need” (WIC staff will help families figure out if they have a nutritional need.)
- The family must meet the family income guidelines, which are based on how much money the family makes and the number of people in the family’s household.
If a family already receives Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or they are covered under certain types of MassHealth, they are automatically eligible for WIC. Foster children under 5 are also automatically eligible for the program.
To apply for WIC, call 1-800-WIC-1007 to schedule an appointment to speak with a WIC staff person. WIC has day, evening, and Saturday appointments available.
Additional Resources for
Early Intervention (EI)
Early Intervention (EI) programs are for children ages 0-3 who: already have developmental disabilities because of a medical condition, are showing signs of a developmental delay without a known medical condition, or are at risk for developmental delays. EI is provided through community-based organizations, and all EI programs are certified by DPH.
The goals of all EI programs are to improve the child’s physical and cognitive (brain) development and help the child develop communication, social/emotional, and daily living skills. For young children, daily living skills include learning how to use utensils to eat and how to drink from a cup. Examples of EI services are:
- Family training, counseling, and home visits
- Diagnostic services
- Evaluation services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Instruction on sign language/cued speech
- Speech and language services
Anyone can refer a child to an EI program, including parents. To find an EI program in your community, contact Family TIES at 1-800-905-8437 or visit their website for a list of EI programs.
Additional Resources for
Childhood Lead Poisoning Preventio nProgram (CLPPP)
Lead poisoning in children can lead to problems with the brain, the kidneys, and the nervous system. Lead poisoning can make it difficult for the child to focus and learn in school, and they may also develop behavioral problems. Children between the ages of 9 months and 6 years old are the most at risk for lead poisoning.
The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) provides information about lead poisoning in children and the Massachusetts Lead Law. CLPPP provides a directory of lead inspectors who are licensed to check homes for lead. For more information, visit CLPPP’S website or call 1-800-532-9571.
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School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs)
School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) provide physical and behavioral health care where children spend most of their time – at school. SBHCs address and treat everyday health problems, like sore throats and colds, and also help children manage chronic diseases, like diabetes or asthma. SBHCs serve all children regardless of whether or not they have health insurance.
SBHCs offer many types of health services, such as:
- Oral health services
- Referrals to medical specialists
- Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
- Reproductive health services
- Behavioral health assessments
- Substance use screenings
- Referrals to substance abuse treatment
- Care coordination and communication with the child’s other health providers
DPH funds 33 SBHCs in 15 cities and towns, and the centers are mostly based in high schools. To find out if your child’s school has an SBHC, click here.
School Sealant Program (SEAL)
The School Sealant Program (SEAL) provides dental care for children at their schools. Dental hygienists come to the school to check on the child’s dental health. The hygienists can also apply topical fluoride and dental sealants to the child’s teeth. Topical fluoride is applied on top of the child’s teeth and can help put minerals back into the teeth that may have been lost because or plaque or bacteria. Dental sealants are a plastic material that is placed over the teeth that creates a barrier between the teeth and bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
SEAL is currently available in 13 communities across the state. To see if your child’s school participates, call your school nurse or school principal. If you are interested in having the SEAL program come to your school or community-based program, call 617-624-5573.
Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP)
The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) is a sexuality education program for youth ages 10-19. DPH partners with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and community-based organizations to provide this program to youth. The goal of PREP is to teach youth how to make responsible choices about their sexual and reproductive health. The program also aims to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and decrease the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the communities it serves.
While each PREP program is slightly different depending on the needs of the community, most of the programs teach youth about these topics:
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Decision-making skills
- Adolescent development
- How to set personal goals, including career and financial goals
- How pregnancy and STIs can get in the way of achieving personal goals
For more information about PREP, please check the links below and contact the organization in your community that provides the program.
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Family Planning Provider Network (FPPN)
The Family Planning Provider Network (FPPN) provides health services to low-income residents and to those who may need private, confidential care, such as adolescents. Services are provided for free or for low cost.
Examples of the kinds of services offered are:
- Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Emergency contraception
- HIV counseling and testing
- HPV and other vaccinations
- Cervical cancer screenings
- Workshops on reproductive health, sexuality, and STI/HIV prevention
- Trainings for parents, teachers, and other health care providers
Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative (MPPTI)
The Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative (MPPTI) is for teens that are either expecting a child or already have a child. The goals of the program are to help these teens graduate from high school or get a GED, and to support the health and development of their children. MPPTI also works with teens to delay their next pregnancy by at least two years.
There are five MPPTI programs available. For more information, please contact the organization that provides the program in your community.
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Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)
The Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) oversees prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery programs for those struggling with substance abuse and gambling problems. BSAS funds these programs, licenses them, creates policies for the programs, and provides training opportunities for program staff.
Within BSAS, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Services (OYYAS) is responsible for creating and overseeing substance abuse recovery programs for youth and young adults. OYYAS has a directory that has contact information for all BSAS programs that serve youth and young adults. For more information about a program, contact the program directly using the information in the directory, or contact the Youth Central Intake and Care Coordination line at 1-866-705-2807 (TTY: 617-661-9051).
BSAS Programs for Youth (under 18 years old)
MassSTART School-Based Intervention Programs work with youth between 8-13 years old who are at high risk of developing substance use problems or engaging in other types of high-risk behavior.
Outpatient treatment services help youth under 18 address their substance abuse issues while staying in their community. These services are available in many hospitals, community-based health centers, and other organizations throughout the state.
Recovery High Schools are high schools that are specially designed to meet the needs of youth with substance abuse issues. These schools provide small class sizes, individual attention, and counseling services.
Youth Stabilization and Detoxification Programs are for youth in crisis who need a safe place for detoxification and to help them become more emotionally stable. Youth will receive assessment, treatment, supervision, and monitoring.
Youth Residential Treatment Programs are for youth between 13-17 years old who are having health, emotional, family or other problems because of their alcohol and/or substance use. Youth receive individual, group, and/or family counseling, and program staff work with the youth’s school to make sure that they are making progress on their education.
BSAS Programs for Young Adults
Transitional Age Youth and Young Adult Residential Programs are designed to help older teens and young adults learn how to live independently while also addressing their recovery needs. These programs offer assessment services, substance abuse treatment, and referrals for mental health counseling. They also teach daily living skills and provide support for the young person’s educational and career goals.
BSAS Program for Families
Family Intervention Programs help families encourage the youth or young adult in their lives to get treatment for their substance abuse issues. Family Intervention Programs also help families learn skills and access resources to understand how to best support their youth in their recovery.
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DPH Division for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs
DPH’s Division for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs offers many types of programs for children and youth with complex medical needs, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, cerebral palsy, and some types of genetic conditions. The division also offers programs to support families and other caregivers. For more information about the programs listed below, call the Community Support Line at 1-800-882-1435 unless otherwise noted.
Care Coordination for Children with Special Health Needs helps families find community-based services and resources their child or youth with special health needs. This service covers children and youth up to the age of 23.
The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund (CICRF) helps families cover the costs of their child’s special health needs, whether those needs come from an illness, accident, or disability. CICRF is for costs that are not covered by private insurance, state and federal programs, or other sources.
The EI Parent Leadership Project was created by parents whose children received EI services, and current staff members have all received EI services for their children and families. For more information, visit https://eiplp.org/ or call 1-877-353-4757.
Family TIES offers information, referrals, support, and training for parents of children with special needs or chronic illnesses. For more information, visit www.massfamilyties.org or call their toll-free line at 1-800-905-TIES (8437).
The Health Transition for Youth and Youth Adults with Special Health Needs helps youth and young adults with complex medical needs make the change from the pediatric care system to the adult health care system. For more information and to view the program’s resources, click here.
MassCARE (Community AIDS Resource Enhancement) provides services to women, infants, children, and youth who are living with HIV. MassCARE services include connections to HIV-related health care, case management, peer support programs, and transition services for youth.
For more information, contact the MassCARE provider in your community:
- Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, 508-559-6699 (TDD 508-587-4224)
- Family Health Center, Worcester, 508-860-7700 (TTY 508-860-7750)
- Lowell Community Health Center, 978-937-9700 (TTY 978-937-9700)
- Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, 978-686-0090
The MassCARE Family Advisory Network (FAN) and Teen Advisory Network (TAN) encourages family members and youth to take on leadership roles in supporting women, youth, and families living with HIV. For more information, visit the website, or call 1-800-331-068.
The MassSTYLE Youth Program is based in Cambridge. It is a free, year-long program for youth living with HIV. Youth and young adults create the program curriculum with staff, and the curriculum addresses topic like transitioning to the adult healthcare system, disclosure, sexual health, and positive living. For more information, visit the website or call 617-864-2921.
MASSTART (Technology Assistance Resource Team) is a free service that helps families, schools, community-based organizations, and other providers plan for the health/safety needs of children who use medical technology. The goal of MASSTART is to help schools and families work together to make sure that the child can learn alongside their non-disabled peers as much as possible.
The Pediatric Palliative Care Network (PPCN) provides in-home palliative care services to children who have life-limiting illnesses such as advanced cancer, organ failure, HIV, cystic fibrosis, certain genetic disorders, and severe cerebral palsy. PPCN also provides support services for the child’s family. Examples of palliative care services include pain/symptom management, nursing services, sibling support, and respite care.
The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program helps families whose newborns did not pass their first hearing test at the hospital and may need additional testing or care. The program makes sure that the infant has a follow-up appointment for a hearing test 3 weeks after they leave the hospital. If needed, the program also helps the family enroll the infant in Early Intervention (EI) services as soon as possible. They also provide information on their webpage about hearing testing centers, getting a diagnosis, and other supports for children and families.