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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 16U: Network of community-based services and family resource centers

Section 16U. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:—

''Child requiring assistance'', as defined in section 21 of chapter 119.

''Community-based services'', services, including coordination of services, designed to assist families requiring assistance so that, if appropriate, children of the family may continue to reside with their family and attend their community school while enjoying a strengthened relationship with their family.

''Family requiring assistance'', as defined in section 21 of chapter 119.

''Habitually truant'', as defined in section 21 of chapter 119.

''Secretary'', the secretary of health and human services.

(b) Subject to appropriation or third party reimbursement, the secretary shall:

(1) establish a network of child and family service programs and family resource centers throughout the commonwealth to provide community-based services to families with children requiring assistance under subsection (c);

(2) develop guidelines and standards necessary to achieve and maintain, on a statewide basis, a comprehensive and integrated network of community-based services and family resource centers for children and families;

(3) promote efficiency by including in the network of community-based services and family resource centers access to the following services: (i) organizations that are part of the comprehensive community-based behavioral health delivery system coordinated by the secretary under section 16S; (ii) organizations that provide services or have experience in coordinating access to community-based services such as local schools; (iii) other local public agencies and private organizations; and (iv) local medical, behavioral or mental health care providers;

(4) coordinate the services provided by the network and in the family resource centers including, but not limited to, outreach, intake, screening, assessment and referral to services;

(5) encourage cooperation among local providers as needed to provide the full complement of services required under this section;

(6) monitor and provide technical assistance to family resource centers and providers of community-based services;

(7) require the use of standard intake screening and assessment tools to evaluate families and children seeking community-based services which shall identify the family's strengths, resources and service needs including, but not limited to, mental health, behavioral health or substance abuse treatment, basic family shelter, clothing and food needs, child care needs, health insurance status, legal issues, education placement and child protection; and

(8) create a data collection system for use by programs within the community-based services network and family resource centers which shall: (i) maintain the privacy of clients served, (ii) assist programs and the secretary in addressing the needs of the population to be served, (iii) collect information including, but not limited to, insurance status and benefit coverage of clients served, income documentation as needed to apply a sliding fee scale for payment or waiver of payment for services and (iv) such other information deemed necessary to assist the program and the secretary in providing services, identifying service needs and gaps and evaluating the effectiveness of family resource centers and the community-based services network.

(c) The network of community-based services and family resource centers shall: (i) assist families so that, whenever possible, children may continue residing with their families in their home communities; (ii) assist families to enable children to continue as students in their community schools; (iv) strengthen the relationships between children and their families; and (iv) provide coordinated, comprehensive, community-based services for children at risk of dropping out of school, committing delinquent acts or engaging in behaviors which impede the likelihood of leading healthy, productive lives.

Services offered through the network shall include, but not be limited to, treatment for or assistance with: eligibility determinations, behavioral, medical and mental health needs, special education evaluation, remedial education services, assistance with insurance issues, mentoring, family and parent support, civic engagement and community service, after school and out-of-school opportunities, residential programs, crisis management and case management.

(d) Any documentation of services provided to the family and child through the network of community-based services or in the family resource centers shall not be public records under clause Twenty-sixth of section 7 of chapter 4. Except as otherwise required by law, including laws related to the reporting of suspected abuse or neglect under section 51A of chapter 119, statements made by the family and child while receiving services from the network of community-based services shall be treated as confidential and shall not be used in any proceedings without the written consent of the person making the statement. Information about the child and family requiring assistance, including interactions with service providers and protected health information services, may be shared among the case team, other providers of community services for families and any agency within the executive office of health and human services providing such services to the child as needed to coordinate treatment and provide appropriate case management, to the extent permitted under applicable federal law, unless the child or family decline in writing to permit such information sharing.

(e) Participation in community-based services and use of the family resource centers shall be under a voluntary agreement of the parent, legal guardian or custodian and the child; provided, however, that provision of community-based services may be contingent upon such parent, legal guardian or custodian agreeing to pay for such services or consenting to allow covered services to be billed to applicable third party payers, including insurance providers.

(f) Except as otherwise provided, a school administrator shall refer a student to a family resource center or a community-based services program, if such programs have been established in the geographic region where the student resides, at the same time that the administrator notifies the student and the parent, legal guardian or custodian of the student that the student is to be expelled for failure to comply with the lawful and reasonable rules of the school. After providing the process that is due to the student, including an expulsion hearing if requested under sections 37H and 37H1/2 of chapter 71, the school administrator shall consider the outcome of the community-based services if the student provides such outcome information to the school. After an expulsion is imposed, the student may continue to provide information relative to the outcome of any community-based services rendered, and the school administrator shall consider the outcome of any community-based services rendered any time that is provided. Notwithstanding the outcome of any community-based services, school districts shall make available to expelled students educational services designed to lead to re-entry to a regular education program or to a high school diploma.

A school shall refer a child and family to a department of education truancy program, if such a program is available at the school, before referring the child and family to community-based services or a family resource center for habitually truant behavior. Whenever a child or family seeks assistance from a family resource center or community-based service network program for habitually truant behavior, the program staff shall assist the family in gaining access to a certified truancy program.

(g) Nothing in this section shall diminish or interfere with the rights and protections afforded to students with disabilities under federal and state special education laws.