Media Contact: Julia Christopher

BOSTON, MA – April 28, 2011 – Community and legislative leaders heard directly from young people about their ordeals with bullying at an educational forum at the Massachusetts State House this morning. 
A panel of clinical and policy experts answered questions from an audience of more than 500 educators, young people, and healthcare providers.

The forum was presented by Partners HealthCare in collaboration with Words Can Work and co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. The forum was co-hosted by Massachusetts State Senator James B. Eldridge and Massachusetts State Representative John W. Scibak. Massachusetts State Representative Martha Walz was a special guest speaker.

Panelists included Eugene Beresin, MD, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training Mass General Hospital and McLean Hospital; Robin D’Antona, Ed D, Educational Consultant and Certified National Olweus Bullying Prevention Trainer; Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Executive Director Boston Public Health Commission; Anne Gilligan, MPH, Title IV, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Coordinator, MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Barbara Leadholm, Commissioner MA Department of Mental Health; Bryan Pridgen, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, McLean Hospital; Lauren Smith, MD, Medical Director MA Department of Public Health; Gabrielle Viator, Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division

Through the forum, Partners HealthCare shared information with young people, parents, teachers, school administrators and community health advocates about the signposts of and effective responses to bullying.
“Partners HealthCare shares the state’s commitment to improving the health of young people through prevention,” said Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, President and CEO, Partners HealthCare. “As a healthcare provider, we want to share our clinical experience, support educational tools, and do what we can to prevent one of the most serious challenges facing our children today.”
“Bullying is no longer considered a harmless right of passage or just a part of growing up,” said Barbara Leadholm, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. “We must address the issue for what it is - a destructive imbalance of power - and offer support to both the young people who are being bullied and the bullies themselves.”

“The agencies and educators doing the hard work of implementing our state’s new law understand the devastating effects bullying can have on children. We owe it to our kids to keep them safe from bullying in their schools and online. The state’s new anti-bullying law employs a comprehensive set of strategies and guidelines to help end this problem,” said Lauren Smith, Medical Director, of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  

The legislative conference committee that helped draft the new anti-bullying legislation passed by the Senate and the House last spring was co-chaired by Massachusetts State Representative Martha M. Walz – the main author of the law—and former Massachusetts State Senator Robert O’Leary. The legislative co-hosts of the forum, Massachusetts State Senator James B. Eldridge and Massachusetts State Representative John W. Scibak, served on the conference committee.

“We have the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the country,” said Representative Martha M. Walz. “Massachusetts has chosen to take the lead and put the safety of the Commonwealth’s children first.”

Senator James B. Eldridge said, “The members of the Massachusetts Legislature and the conference committee worked to pass a bill that we hope will bring an end to this issue facing our young people and enable them to thrive in a safe and productive culture in their schools.”

Massachusetts now joins 46 other states with anti-bullying laws on the books. “The Massachusetts Legislature passed anti-bullying legislation last spring, and I am committed to seeing that our schools are equipped with the training and support that the staff members needs to fully implement it and keep our young people safe.” said State Representative John W. Scibak.

Bullying: True Stories is part of the Words Can Work DVD and booklet series, which is a resource for young people, parents, educators and caregivers to guide kids in talking about public and mental health challenges young people face growing up. “Bullying: True Stories takes us into lives of young people to see and feel the potential long-term impact bullying has on both the target and the perpetrator,” said  Blake.

About Partners HealthCare
Partners HealthCare is an integrated health system founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.  In addition to its two academic medical centers, the Partners system includes community and specialty hospitals, community health centers, a physician network, home health and long-term care services, and other health-related entities. Partners is one of the leading biomedical research organizations and a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.  Partners HealthCare is a non-profit organization.

About Words Can Work®
Words Can Work is created by Jeanne Blake, president and founder of Blake Works. Blake Works is certified as a Woman Owned Business. Blake Works produces and distributes DVDs and Words Can Work booklets for young people, parents, and other caregivers, about the public and mental health challenges kids face growing up. Its advisors are researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading institutions including Harvard Medical School, where Blake is an affiliated faculty member with the Division on Addictions, and McLean Hospital, Harvard's largest psychiatric facility, where Blake serves as a trustee.